Sylhet promises batting-friendly conditions as both teams shift focus to the longest format
Sylhet hosts the first Test match after the World Cup in India. Geographically, it’s not far, but in terms of atmosphere, it’s a different world. New Zealand has not played a Test in eight months, and Bangladesh in five months. It marks the start of the World Test Championship for both teams, so they are competing for points.
In the last cycle, New Zealand defended their champions title, but they didn’t come close to reaching the final. This may have motivated them to be more alert, leading them to bring their best team on this tour. They had sent a second-string side for the ODIs played here in September. Things were different back then.
Kane Williamson will captain the batting unit, joined by Tom Latham, Devon Conway, and Henry Nicholls in the top four. Daryl Mitchell and Rachin Ravindra, who collectively scored five centuries in the World Cup, will bring a confident approach to the team.
Captain Tim Southee will head a bowling attack that is expected to be dominated by spin. Ish Sodhi is in consideration, having claimed a six-for against Bangladesh earlier this year, although it was in a different format. Mitchell Santner is likely to play his first Test in over two years, and Ajaz Patel is a significant option for the selectors. Ravindra’s all-round skills will be crucial, and if Neil Wagner is the second seamer with Southee, he can also anticipate a substantial bowling workload.
Bangladesh is eager to hit the field swiftly for their own reasons. They had a disappointing World Cup campaign, and the aftermath hasn’t been favorable. They enter this series without several key players, as Captain Shakib Al Hasan and his deputy Litton Das are sidelined. Fast bowlers Taskin Ahmed and Ebadot Hossain are also out due to injuries. Litton, on paternity leave, is the exception. The absence of Shakib and Tamim Iqbal has forced Bangladesh to reassess their bowling attack and deal with significant gaps in the batting lineup.
Mahmudul Hasan Joy and Zakir Hasan are the probable openers, with much riding on the performances of Captain Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mominul Haque, and Mushfiqur Rahim. The bowling attack, led by Taijul Islam and Mehidy Hasan Miraz, lacks experience. Despite the challenging scenario for Bangladesh, Sylhet offers a potential escape from the ongoing discussions about the World Cup, which seems never-ending in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh WWLLL (last five Tests, most recent first)
New Zealand WWWLD
In the spotlight: Mominul Haque and Rachin Ravindra
Mominul Haque typically avoids being in the spotlight, and this was one of the reasons he relinquished the Test captaincy last year when his runs had dried up. Many believed it was due to his reluctance to be in the limelight. Nevertheless, Mominul remains the linchpin of Bangladesh’s Test batting. He is anticipated to quickly regain his form, even though he has emphasized that being a Test specialist and playing this format after extended breaks is challenging. Despite this, he emerged as the highest run-scorer in the recently-concluded National Cricket League first-class tournament, suggesting that batting form may not be a major concern for the left-hander.
Rachin Ravindra is set to draw considerable attention after his impressive World Cup performance. Finishing as the fourth highest run-scorer in the competition, he notched centuries against England, Australia, and Pakistan. In the Test series against Bangladesh, he is expected to play a different role, likely batting down the order and contributing significantly to the bowling department. His international career has already seen a significant transformation, with the World Cup providing him with a life-changing opportunity early on.
Team news| Extra spinners in both XIs
Nurul Hasan will step in for Litton behind the stumps, and Khaled Ahmed is expected to fill Taskin’s role in the bowling unit. If a five-man attack is chosen, Nayeem Hasan is likely to be the third spinner.
Probable Bangladesh lineup!
- Mahmudul Hasan Joy
- Zakir Hasan
- Najmul Hossain Shanto
- Mominul Haque
- Mushfiqur Rahim
- Nurul Hasan (wk)
- Mehidy Hasan Miraz
- Nayeem Hasan
- Taijul Islam
- Shoriful Islam
- Khaled Ahmed
New Zealand faces a spin puzzle to solve. Ravindra is expected to bat in the top six following his outstanding World Cup campaign, but there might be a decision to make between Ajaz, Santner, and Sodhi for two positions.
Probable New Zealand lineup!
- Tom Latham
- Devon Conway
- Kane Williamson
- Henry Nicholls
- Daryl Mitchell
- Rachin Ravindra
- Tom Blundell (wk)
- Mitchell Santner
- Tim Southee (capt)
- Ajaz Patel/Ish Sodhi
- Neil Wagner
Pitch and conditions-Sylhet is good for batting
Sylhet has solidified its status as the premier batting ground in Bangladesh, especially following the five white-ball international matches held there this year. Although it hasn’t hosted a Test in the past five years, the venue has witnessed six first-class matches with scores exceeding 400 during this period. The weather in Sylhet is predominantly dry, and the breeze descending from the hillside often contributes to lowering the temperature.
Stats and trivia
Sylhet is currently hosting only its second Test match. The inaugural match took place in 2018, resulting in a victory for Zimbabwe over Bangladesh.
New Zealand is participating in Test matches in Bangladesh after a gap of precisely ten years. In contrast, Bangladesh has undertaken tours to New Zealand in 2017, 2019, and 2022, engaging in a total of six Test matches during these visits.
Shanto has assumed the role of Bangladesh’s captain within five years of making his Test debut. This marks a swifter ascent to leadership compared to Mushfiqur and Mominul, both of whom became captains six years after their respective Test debuts.
“We’re dusting off the whites and coming back together as a Test group. We accomplished some impressive feats in the latter part of last summer. With a heavy diet of white-ball cricket, the guys are thrilled to return to Test cricket. The beginning of the World Test Championship cycle is truly exciting.”
“I personally believe I can lead the team in all formats. Planning as a long-term captain is more straightforward. Whoever emerges as the next captain will have a better experience if given a more extended opportunity.”