Chittagong: Kane Williamson and Peter Fulton were looking quite comfortable, until the Bangladesh spinners found their mojo in the final hour. New Zealand went to stumps on 280 for 5, having lost their last three wickets in 10.1 overs in the first Test in Chittagong.
After controlled batting had kept all three spinners out of the game on a newly-laid pitch, the fourth and the fifth wickets came in the last two overs, when Williamson, having made 114, and captain Brendon McCullum were adjudged leg-before to Shakib Al Hasan and Abdur Razzak respectively.
The visitors’ progress throughout the day was a fair reflection of the conditions. There was no pace in the wicket even at its freshest, and it didn’t change much throughout the day. But the two batsmen, as well as Hamish Rutherford and later Ross Taylor, made friends with the straw-coloured surface quicker than the bowlers would have hoped.
Bangladesh included Abdur Razzak for his first Test match in more than two years in hopes of fielding a more rounded attack and just after the first hour, all three spinners had been brought in. But the wickets did not materialise.
The swiftness with which the New Zealand top four acclimatised must have been encouraging for the next batsmen. Williamson was the most impressive, adjusting quickly as if he suddenly remembered how he had scored his first ODI hundred in Dhaka. Even then, his timing was noticeable.
Today he was as tight in defence as he was forceful when the ball was off line. Coming at the back of a first wicket which was needlessly given away by Rutherford, Williamson avoided rash strokeplay. A backfoot dab through mid-on off the first ball he faced, from Shakib Al Hasan, was perhaps the most elegant shot of the day, but the best one of his 12 boundaries came four balls later – another light punch off the back foot to turn the ball past mid-wicket. The two shots set him up for the rest of the innings, as the Bangladesh spinners struggled to push the ball through, or use the slow nature of the wicket to their benefit.
Williamson’s next seven boundaries were all examples of how a batsman’s patience is more often than not rewarded. A majority of them were off short balls, as the bowlers lost their discipline, and soon he reached his half-century off 94 balls.
Fulton struggled early on when he repeatedly tried to work the ball in front of the leg side. But after surviving some close calls, he too reached his first fifty since his twin centuries against England in Auckland. His 73 came off 198 balls, with seven fours and a six as he became increasingly comfortable knocking the spinners around, finding the gaps and bringing out the sweep shot once in a while. It was a slow innings, but one that laid the foundation for New Zealand’s dominance on the day.
Their 126-run stand – New Zealand’s highest for the second wicket in Bangladesh – wasn’t exactly unexpected because the hosts are used to being on the backfoot when bowling first. But given their attack, it was expected that the pair would be forced into a mistake, which eventually came off Nasir Hossain’s part-time off spin. Fulton had a century in his sights when he smashed a half-tracker straight to cover and walked off the field looking very distraught.
Williamson reached his century off 175 balls, a confident knock that was pleasing to the eyes, particularly when he punched the ball off either foot. But it was his strong-willed defence that contributed to his innings the most.
Along with Ross Taylor, he added 61 runs for the third wicket, which ended when Taylor’s flick found a leading edge and fell safely into cover’s hands while Rutherford, the day’s first wicket, was another batsman being defeated by his own impetuousness.
Williamson was dismissed for 114, having batted more than four hours. His forward prod at Shakib missed the bat, and he was given out leg-before in the penultimate over of the day. McCullum fell in the final over, having played back while trying to flick a ball off Razzak, who was bowling quicker than he had done all day.
Despite the five wickets, the day’s play promises much for New Zealand looking ahead in the series. They started off quite well on a new surface, which might not impress their pace bowlers much. The plan from the home side would be to diminish the pace and movement of Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell, and hope the wicket gets better as the match progresses.
New Zealand 280 for 5 (Williamson 114, Fulton 73) v Bangladesh