New Zealand (above) look all set to cruise over the eternal minnow Bangladesh at Hamilton on Friday © Getty Images
New Zealand (above) look all set to cruise over the eternal minnow Bangladesh at Hamilton on Friday © Getty Images

While New Zealand start as the overwhelming favourites against Bangladesh, we must remember that they have not beaten the weaker cricketing nation for half a decade. Arunabha Sengupta looks at the recent past and also casts an eye towards the immediate futurein the case of an unexpected upset.

With Brendon McCullum wielding the willow like the hammer of Thor, Kane Williamson breathing  composure into the innings like Soter Daimon; with Trent Boult and Tim Southee hurling their missiles like Ares and Mars; hosts New Zealand look all set to cruise over the eternal minnow Bangladesh in their last group match. READ Match Preview: New Zealand vs Bangladesh

However, one look at the footprints left by the two teams in the statistical databases and we realise with a rather rude shock that New Zealand has not beaten Bangladesh even once in the last five years. Their last success against this minor cricketing nation came way back at Christchurch in February 2010, when Martin Guptill‘s run-a-ball 91 had enabled them to snatch a three-wicket win.

Since then the two countries have faced each other eight times, in a five-match series in 2010 and then another three-match contest in 2013. One match of the 2010 series, at Chittagong, was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Apart from that, Bangladesh has been victorious on each of the remaining seven occasions, winning the series 4-0 in 2010 and 3-0 in 2013. The green brigade have handed out two whitewashes — one absolute and one almost — to the Black Caps.

A closer look at the scorecards reveal more surprises. Four of the three victories in the 2010 series were close encounters. Bangladesh rode some excellent all-round performance of Shakib Al Hasan  — 213 runs at 71.00 and 11 wickets at 15.90 — to clinch those matches by nine, three and nine runs respectively. However, in 2013, only one match came close with the hosts winning in Fatullah with four balls to spare. The other victories were comprehensive.

So, the ever-accompanying minnow tag notwithstanding, the most unfancied of the cricket mad subcontinental nations will not really consider themselves rank outsiders when they take on the southern island country.

What will perhaps give their optimism a pause is that all their victories over the Kiwis have come in familiar tropical conditions — in the land of heat and dust, monsoon and mangrove forests;  where the sluggish pitches render McCullum strokeless and Southee toothless. They have lost all six matches that they have played in the land of the long white cloud. Not only that, they have also met with defeat in the other five matches played between the two teams in five different parts of the world — England, West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Sharjah.

Bangladesh not only seem to love home advantage. Thus far in their cricketing history, while taking on the New Zealanders on foreign lands, they have looked distinctly like one of the hilsas who suddenly find themselves out of the salty waters of the Padma.

Hence, while it may be wise not to underestimate Mashrafe Mortaza‘s men, perhaps a sudden surprise at Hamilton is still a far cry. But, one can indeed anticipate a keen contest. The  win against England will obviously inject the underdogs with plenty of heart.

What will happen if Bangladesh do pull off an upset? It may be foolhardy to expect them to make up the enormous gap in the net-runrate with Australia — especially given the latter will be facing Scotland in their last group match. However, a win will allow them to finish in front of the Sri Lankans, as number three in their group. It will of course result in much recalculation and restructuring of the following rounds..

That will mean that India — thus far expecting to take on their eastern neighbours at Melbourne — will have to fly further north east and take on Sri Lanka at Sydney. Not many of their fans would prefer that, and neither would the Indian think tank.

A lot to play for and lot to look forward to as the forces assemble on the banks of the Waikato River.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)