Bangladesh put up a much-improved second-innings performance, but crumbled in the face of a massive deficit to lose the first Test against New Zealand by an innings and 52 runs in Hamilton.
At 126/4 on the third day, Bangladesh had appeared to be sliding towards a massive defeat, and while they did eventually suffer that fate, they managed to slow down New Zealand’s victory charge, mainly through a 235-run fifth-wicket stand between centurions Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah.
This was Sarkar’s maiden Test ton and Mahmudullah’s career-best score – each of them efforts to be proud of, coming against a world-class New Zealand attack in conditions ripe for them to succeed.
As has been the case with Bangladesh throughout this Test, both innings were laced with attacking intent. Between them, Mahmudullah and Sarkar slapped 42 fours and eight sixes. They reinforced the fact that the Bangladesh batsmen possess the shots and the talent, but an inability to show restraint at the critical junctures is their undoing.
New Zealand had to wait long – nearly 42 overs on day four – before they could break through. But once they did, the procession resumed. Trent Boult stormed to his eighth Test five-wicket haul – also easily his most expensive five-for and the first one to cost over 100 runs.
The morning, however, had belonged to Sarkar and Mahmudullah. In yet another wicket-less session in this Test, the duo biffed 136 runs in 29 overs. New Zealand, as they have for most of this Test, continued to pitch it short, but Sarkar and Mahmudullah adopted vastly contrasting approaches to deal with it.
Sarkar pulled and hooked with abandon, collecting the lion’s share of his runs and boundaries behind square on the leg side. Mahmdullah was more circumspect, happy to get under, or on top of, the short stuff, and keep it down. On the occasions he pulled, he made sure to keep it along the ground.
A delightful drive through mid-off against Tim Southee took Sarkar to 99, and the hundred came two balls later, with a controlled pull to deep square-leg. It had taken Sarkar just 94 balls to get to the landmark, making this the joint-fastest hundred by a Bangladesh batsman, alongside Tamim Iqbal’s 103 while following on against England at Lord’s in 2010.
Mahmullah walloped leg-spinner Todd Astle for a six down the ground in the next over to move to 50. Astle was the least effective of the New Zealand bowlers, going for 58 runs in 15 overs. Together, Sarkar and Mahmudullah made the most of a surface that had lost a some of the sting it possessed, and cut the deficit down to 120.
It was only about an hour into the post-lunch session that New Zealand finally had success. Sarkar lazily flicked an incoming Boult delivery that moved back after straightening in the air, to let the ball graze the back pad and go onto the stumps. Mahmudullah, meanwhile, moved to three figures with back-to-back boundaries off Southee. But New Zealand hit right back when Liton Das dragged on a full delivery from Boult.
Mahmudullah was left fighting a lone battle from that point on, as none among the lower order offered substantial resistance. Perhaps sensing that the end was near, Mahmudullah began expressing himself a lot more freely after the hundred. Having taken 183 balls to get there, he then punched 43 runs off his next 46 balls.
He became the ninth man dismissed, slicing a short ball from Southee to deep point. That put the seal on his team’s defeat.