Forewarned is forearmed for Stephen Fleming’s New Zealand team. Though they are currently high-flying in the Super Eights section of the World Cup - undefeated with two crucial victories over England and West Indies - they’ll know full well that Monday’s next encounter in Antigua has the potential to be a little uncomfortable.
Bangladesh may be coming off the back of a thumping defeat against the Aussies, but in the pre-tournament warm-ups in Barbados they held their nerve against the Kiwis to complete a surprise two-wicket win - a result that was the first indication they there would be further shocks in store in this competition.
Admittedly the match had been a 13-a-side affair that perhaps carried more significance for the victors than the defeated, but neither John Bracewell, New Zealand’s coach, nor their wicketkeeper, Brendon McCullum, could entirely forget about the implications of that set-back.
“We have to keep our feet on the ground when it comes to Bangladesh,” said McCullum. “After losing to them in the warm-up they will have a pretty strong belief they can knock us over again so we have to on the top of our game. They pose a threat with their seamers up front, and if they get helpful conditions they can be a handful.”
Bangladesh’s initial foray in the Super Eights was not all that it might have been. A farcical drainage problem at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium reduced the match to a 22-overs affair, and by the time Bangladesh had thrown four key wickets away inside the first eight overs, there was further bad news in their brief bowling stint when the energetic seamer, Tapash Baisya, limped out of the attack with a damaged foot. His place seems likely to be taken by Syed Rasel, who played in the pool matches.
But for all the talk of their seam attack, it is the constricting influence of their trio of spinners that is arguably Bangladesh’s more potent weapon. With Mohammad Rafique and Abdul Razzak backed up by Saqibul Hasan’s darting left-armers, they have the ability over 50 overs to exercise sufficient control to ensure a reasonable run-chase.
It is for such reasons as these that Bracewell maintains that New Zealand’s defeat in the warm-up was a timely wake-up call, after the euphoria of their 3-0 thrashing of Australia in the Chappell-Hadlee Series. All it takes is a loss of concentration at a crucial juncture of the tournament, and all promise of the past few months will count for nothing.
“Someone sent us a nice picture of Everest the other day and you don’t climb that by looking at the top,” said Bracewell. “It is a big climb so we’ve decided to go one step at a time.”
All the same, Dav Whatmore, Bangladesh’s coach, was more than happy to talk up New Zealand’s prospects. “They are another good side and they’ll consider themselves one of the favourites,” he said. “They are a good solid team in any conditions - they’re a very good fielding team and it’s very difficult to bowl them out because their allrounders give them so much depth and flexibility.”
Those allrounders, Jacob Oram and Scott Styris in particular, have been in sparkling form in the tournament to date, while the enduring fitness of key players such as Daniel Vettori and Shane Bond has further enhanced their prospects of progress. Though the hard-hitting batsman, Ross Taylor, remains sidelined with a hamstring strain, Mark Gillespie has returned to full fitness after a shoulder infection, and is expected to compete with Michael Mason, Chris Martin and James Franklin for one of the remaining seamer’s slots.
“Having lots of guys to select from is not a headache for me. It is a headache when we don’t have players to select from,” said Bracewell. “That is the beauty of this team. We can bounce out of those situations, shift to a B plan quite seamlessly and adapt to the wicket.”
Adaptability is the mark of a very good side. Barring an upset that not even the Bangladeshis fully envisage, New Zealand should be well on their way to the semi-finals come Monday evening.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Peter Fulton, 2 Stephen Fleming (capt), 3 Hamish Marshall, 4 Scott Styris, 5 Craig McMillan, 6 Jacob Oram, 7 Brendon McCullum (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 James Franklin, 10 Michael Mason, 11 Shane Bond.
Bangladesh (probable) 1 Shahriar Nafees, 2 Tamim Iqbal, 3 Saqibul Hasan, 4 Aftab Ahmed, 5 Habibul Bashar (capt), 6 Mohammad Ashraful, 7 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 8 Mohammad Rafique, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza, 10 Abdul Razzak, 11 Syed Rasel.
Source:Cricket WorldcupMore on:Bangladesh, Brendon McCullum, John Bracewell, New Zealand, Stephen Fleming, Super Eights, World Cup
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