Late strikes give New Zealand glimmer of hope

New Zealand vs Bangladesh
Mitchell Santner struck a rearguard 73 to help the hosts climb up to 539 in their uphill response on Day 4. © Getty

After Mitchell Santner compiled an aggressive innings of 73 to power New Zealand to 539, Bangladesh lost the wickets of Tamim Iqbal (25), Mahmudullah (5) and Mehedi Hasan (1), while Imrul Kayes had to retire hurt with a hip problem (24), leaving the door ajar for a result at Stumps on Day 4 of the first Test in Wellington. However, with the visitors ahead by 122 runs with seven wickets still in hand (possibly six), it could end in a stalemate.

Riding on a timely 73-run partnership between BJ Watling (49) and Santner, New Zealand had whittled down the lead to 103 at Tea. After the break, Santner continued to play with composure to string useful stands with the lower-order batsmen while chipping away further at the deficit.

He shared an alliance of 30 with Neil Wagner for the ninth wicket and followed it up with another useful stand of 36 with the last man Trent Boult. Santner farmed the strike to protect the last man and when presented with the opportunity to free his arms, his pyrotechnics came to the fore. Santner slogged and cut against the pace duo of Taskin Ahmed and Kamrul Islam Abbasi. He also danced down the track to loft Shakib Al Hasan for a six. Eventually, Subashis Roy castled Santner to bring an end to the New Zealand innings.

Kamrul, Taskin and Shakib bowled incisive spells from time to time, but weren’t consistent enough. Both Taskin and Kamrul used the short delivery to good effect, with Taskin hitting Santner flush on his helmet in the second session. Kamrul Islam also pinged Wagner a couple of times on the helmet before dislodging the lower-order batsman.

Bangladesh’s openers again bristled with intent in their second innings. Tamim cracked a couple of well-timed shots. Imrul Kayes too joined the fun by pulling Tim Southee for a six. Incidentally, Kayes had lost his wicket in the first innings while trying to pull Southee.

The duo commanded authority over most part of the last hour before Kayes had to retire hurt with a hip injury. The left-hander looked to pinch a single off Wagner and had to dive to make it to the non-striker’s end. Unfortunately, he damaged his hip in the process, eventually being stretchered off the field.

Tamim then tried to cut a straight delivery from Santner but was castled. Mahmudulluah followed the opener back to the pavilion as he was dismissed of a strangle down the leg side. To make matters worse, Mehedi was run out after a terrible mix-up with Mominul Haque just at the stroke of Stumps.

Even during the first two sessions of the day, bowlers largely struggled for penetration on a flat surface. Bangladesh had picked up the scalps of Tom Latham (177), Henry Nicholls (52) and Colin de Grandhomme (14) in the first session to edge ahead. However, the Santner-Watling duet propped up the home side’s innings. Watling showed his penchant for back foot play with some well-controlled cut shots. With his broad blade, the wicketkeeper-batsman even crunched a sublime straight drive off Taskin in the 133rd over.

Mahmudullah, finally, ended the valuable stand by dismissing Watling in his first over of the innings. Mahmudullah’s golden arm worked for the second time when he trapped Tim Southee in the same over.

At the start of the day, Latham played with positive intent. Henry Nicholls (52), his partner at the other end, provided Latham valuable support. New Zealand, however, lost the wicket of Nicholls against the run of play. The left-handed batsman trickled one down the leg side off Shakib, with Mehedi pouching the catch at leg slip.

Bangladesh could have also picked up the prized scalp of Latham, but Mehedi grassed a tough chance off Kamrul Islam’s bowling at second slip. However, the visitors didn’t have to wait long for their next wicket as de Grandhomme tried one shot too many, resulting in Subashis Roy taking his first Test scalp. Right at the fag end of the session, the tourists dented New Zealand further by bagging the key wicket of Latham. The southpaw tried to sweep Shakib, but was rapped on the pads right in front of the stumps.

Despite Bangladesh losing wickets in the last 30 minutes of the day, it would take an abject collapse from the visitors for New Zealand to script a memorable come-from-behind win. Rahim is expected to bat on the final day and that should boost Bangladesh’s confidence. However, as the cliche goes, cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties.

Brief Scores: Bangladesh 595/8 decl. (Shakib Al Hasan 217, Mushfiqur Rahim 159; Neil Wagner 4-151) and 66/3 (Tamim Iqbal 25; Neil Wagner 1-14) lead New Zealand 539 (Tom Latham 177, Kane Williamson 53; Mahmudullah 2-15) by 122 runs.