In Christchurch, New Zealand beat Bangladesh by five wickets with 10 balls remaining, in the process winning the ODI series. It was a much-improved performance by the visitors, the inept display at Dunedin being put to one side, however crucial dropped catches in the space of a few minutes dearly cost Bangladesh. They will also reflect on a ponderous start to their batting innings, a more purposeful approach would have resulted in an imposing 300+ run total rather than the insubstantial 271 for 6 that was eventually achieved. Here are five talking points ahead of the final match tomorrow
The last time Bangladesh and New Zealand were due to meet in Christchurch, tragic circumstances intervened and eventually led to the cancellation of a tour. The senseless mosque shootings of March 2019 claimed 51 lives and a further 40 innocent people were injured. The respect and goodwill between the two teams, forged through adversity, has clearly been evident since that fateful day, although the keenly fought nature of the contest meant that sentiment had to be put to one side. The controversy over Jamieson's return "catch" from Tamim and the way the bowler hurled the ball at Tamim's back on his follow through, indicated a sharp edge to proceedings.
Bangladesh's directionless batting
The tourists were clearly conscious of the way they spectacularly underachieved with the bat in the first ODI, which in part explains their conservative approach to batting in the early part of the innings. After 10 overs, they had reached 26 for one the advantage of mandated fielding restrictions seemingly ignored. The challenge of facing the classy trio of Boult, Henry and Jamieson with a hard new ball, each presenting a varying delivery angle, bounce and pace, also contributed to the sluggish start.
That said, a strike rate below 72 for each of the top four batsman isn't going to build the kind of match-winning foundation in many ODIs, and so it proved. Despite Mithun's best efforts to resurrect the innings in the last 20 overs, Bangladesh's total never looked commanding enough. Tamim's decision of taking on the anchor role has already precipitated wide debate, his failure to progress his innings into a match-defining one will encourage further conjecture on the topic. Being run out for 78 off 108 balls in the 31st over at 133 for three represents a job only half done. Unusually, Mushifiqur struggled to impose himself on the game – so often the engine of the middle order, he couldn't find the middle of his bat often enough, his 34 from 59 will also be viewed as a relative failure.
Mithun's personal best
Prior to the match, Mithun spoke about the batting unit taking more responsibility and giving the bowlers a chance by setting a defendable target. He was as good as his word, as he looked by far the most fluent Bangladeshi batsman. Early in his innings his confidence could be viewed in microcosm when he reverse swept Santner for four and didn't even pretend to jog through for a run. At the time it could have been mistaken for laziness or even misplaced arrogance, but it pointed towards a steely focus and intent that was largely absent from his fellow batsman.
He looked equally comfortable against the pace and bounce of Boult and company, playing with a good amount of control. Mithun's vital 73 off 57 balls was his best effort in an ODI; it's hoped that the innings will prove to be a landmark for him. Bangladesh sorely needs Mithun and players of his ilk to provide the missing link and to contribute in a middle order which has been overly reliant on the old guard.
Fifteen minutes of madness
It's often the case that an ODI will meander towards an inevitable conclusion with no perceptible turning point or moment of drama. In Christchurch there was a very definite turning point and an accompanying 15 minutes of drama which all but sealed victory for New Zealand. Although the Kiwis were ahead of the Bangladesh run rate for the majority of the run chase, they were never able to in charge of the game. The spin duo of Mahedi and Mehidy effectively applied the brakes whenever they were called to bowl and the Fizz varied his pace to good effect as he has done countless times in the past.
At the start of the 36th over, New Zealand required 101 runs and faced a rising required rate. Neesham was still new to the crease and Taskin, bowling his eighth over, sensed that a breakthrough had to be made. The first ball of the over was slanted across Neesham on a good length, his prod at the ball producing a prized edge. Mushifiqur, diving to his left, somehow failed to hold on to the chance, the kind of chance he would normally catch with eyes closed. Mushifiqur is the model professional of the team, his attention to detail in terms of fitness, diet and training the example to follow. Despite this, he has a history of high-profile aberrations, when his team has needed his experience the most. The fumbled run-out of Kane Williamson during the last World Cup, in similar match circumstances, comes to mind.
Bangladesh showed how poor fielding and dropped catches can spread alarmingly throughout a team when situation pressure is at its height. In the 37th over Mahedi dropped Latham off his own bowling, another absolute routine catch. It's difficult to understand why such simple catches were dropped; poor concentration levels and perhaps fatigue? As Tamim said after the match, no one drops catches on purpose and it happens to everyone. The concern in the Bangladesh camp will be that the dropped catches are symptoms of a wider failing – lack of self-belief.
Latham the quiet genius
When Tom Latham settles in his crease preparing for the next delivery, an expression of calmness spreads across his face; it turns into a half-smile. It's a kind of smug grin which almost suggests that whatever ball is bowled to him, it's unlikely to faze him. His match-winning unbeaten century reflected that smile, largely untroubled and satisfying. Scoring 110 runs off 108 balls while coming in at No 5, in the absence of Williamson and Taylor, will further enhance an impressive career to date.
His opposite number, Tamim, will look longingly at Latham's century, he would do well to model his next innings on it. Although the series has gone, important World Cup qualification points are still up for grabs in the final ODI and Bangladesh should be encouraged by their upward curve if not the elementary fielding errors.
This article first appeared at https://sightscreencricketjournal.com/