Would you believe that the same team that dominated New Zealand for five consecutive days in their own backyard lost a Test match after two and half days got washed out due to rain just a few days ago? If someone said six days ago that Bangladesh would dominate, not win, a Test match in New Zealand, most of the people would have laughed it off given Bangladesh's track record in Tests and especially their performance in New Zealand.
Bangladesh went into the Mount Maunganui Test match with a dubious record of losing 32 consecutive matches in New Zealand across formats. In 15 matches against New Zealand before this match, they did not have a single win, not even in those dust bowls back home. In fact, Bangladesh had never won a Test match against one of the top five nations away from home.
The odds were highly in favour of the home side. They might have been without their regular skipper Kane Williamson but were bolstered by the return of Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Devon Conway who missed out against India last year. New Zealand fielded nearly their full-strength team. They are currently the world champions in this format and no team except India had a better bowling record- in terms of average and strike rate - than New Zealand in the first edition of the World Test Championship (WTC).
New Zealand left out Ajaz Patel, who in the previous Test match, picked up a perfect ten against India. Rachin Ravindra was their only spin option and they went all-out pace against Bangladesh. The four-pronged pace attack had Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner. Three of them are among the top ten bowlers in Tests right now as per the ICC rankings.
Even if Bangladesh had failed to win this Test match, it could have still remained a memorable Test match. Because you would hardly find a Test match where all the Bangladeshi players had important contributions. And you would hardly find a Test match where there was hardly any moment when it felt like Bangladesh would lose the match.
The Joy Factor
When it's about playing in New Zealand, you have to miss Tamim Iqbal. He is by far the best Bangladeshi batter in that country in terms of runs and batting average. The last time Bangladesh had played Tests in New Zealand, Shadman Islam was partnered by Tamim. But this time Shadman's partner was the one Test old Mahmudul Hasan Joy, who did not show anything promising on his debut back home against Pakistan.
But Joy loves New Zealand. He scored runs when he last toured New Zealand as part of the U-19 squad. He knocked New Zealand out of the 2020 U-19 World Cup with a famous hundred in the semifinal. He scored an assured 66 in the warm-up game ahead of the Test match. But still there were questions regarding his technique and a lot of doubt whether he would be able to negate the vicious swing and seam of Southee and Boult first up.
But the batter 'faced the ball, not the bowler' to his own admission and showed astonishing temperament, grit and resilience in the middle by scoring a dogged 78 in the first innings but most importantly he was there in the middle for almost five hours. He is out of the second Test match in Christchurch due to an injury, but that win was possibly one of the best moments in life for the youngster.
The Liton-Mominul stand
Mominul Haque, the Bangladeshi skipper, has a reputation - a bad one - of not scoring enough runs away from home. He was not in good form particularly, having had a torrid time against Pakistan back home and in the warm-up game. As the captain of the team, he had to do something special to inspire the rest of the players. Mominul, generally an attacking player, curbed his natural instincts and remained patient. He was vulnerable against left-arm pace, could have been dismissed multiple times but hung on for more than six hours before falling 12 short of a well-fought hundred.
Liton Das has struggled big time in white-ball cricket but in Tests, he is a different player altogether. But this time he had to shoulder an extra responsibility in the middle-order as there was no Shakib. But he took it gleefully and was the best Bangladeshi batter against New Zealand by a country mile. The slash he played to get out was possibly the only mistake he made in that 86. In that significant 158-run partnership, both of them had almost identical contributions Liton's contribution was 77. Mominul contributed 76.
How Ebadot turned into a cult hero
His presence in the squad was questioned by many. But they cannot be blamed. A fast bowler, into his 10th Test match, had 11 wickets in his kitty. A bowling average of 81.55 - the worst among pacers who had taken at least 10 wickets - was not a pleasant sight. It reduced after the first innings, but not by much. But little did we know Ebadot saved the best for the second innings, when someone needed to produce magic.
Ebadot missed a straightforward run-out opportunity to dismiss Ross Taylor but the way he made up for the error was unimaginable. He sent back Will Young, Henry Nicholls and Tom Blundell in no time right after New Zealand overcame the deficit of 130 runs. Ebadot's burst left New Zealand reeling at 136 for two to 136 for five.
But Ross Taylor, the wily old Ross Taylor was still there at stumps on day four and could have taken the game away from Bangladesh on day five in his penultimate Test match. But who better than Ebadot to get rid of this threat? He, in his second delivery itself on day five, cleaned up Taylor and became the first Bangladeshi pacer to pick up a five-for in nearly nine years.
There was no stopping Ebadot. He dismissed Jamieson as well and registered the best bowling figures in New Zealand by a Bangladeshi. From a volleyball player at the Air Forces to a cult hero of Bangladesh cricket - the story, the journey of Ebadot is surely an interesting one but how a fast bowler with a bowling strike rate of 135 broke the backbone of a strong New Zealand line-up was even more interesting and intriguing. The coaching staff always wanted to play Ebadot just because of his sheer pace and it has paid off finally.
The supporting roles
As mentioned earlier, it was a match where all the Bangladeshi players contributed. Shadman Islam along with Joy blunted the new ball in the first innings to make things easier for the rest of the batters. Najmul Hossain Shanto previously toured New Zealand with the Test team and knows a thing or two about the conditions. And he scored a fine 64 and stitched the first big partnership for Bangladesh with Joy. Mushfiqur Rahim might not have scored a lot of runs in the first innings, but the way he negotiated the hostile spells for 53 balls after Joy's dismissal in the third morning was appreciable and it surely calmed some nerves in the dressing room. And the winning runs came from his bat, don't forget.
The 75-run partnership between Yasir Ali and Mehidy Hasan Miraz was as important as any other partnership or innings in the Test match because this very stand helped the visitors stretch the lead to 130. Miraz's 47 was an invaluable knock and Shakib rightly tweeted after that: "Miraz is the key to success for Bangladesh."
Let's talk about Miraz's bowling then. His place is not guaranteed in an away Test match because of his record. But his three wickets in the first innings were very important in the context of the game since Bangladesh have a tendency of giving too many runs to the tailenders.
It all started when Shoriful Islam induced the outside edge of Tom Latham's bat in the first innings. Although he did not pick any wicket in the second innings, Shoriful was the best bowler in the first. He got the ball to reverse, challenged the edges of the batters and did not look like a bowler who is touring New Zealand for the first time.
Taskin Ahmed was excellent as well. He was the one who started asking questions of the batters and applied so much pressure that New Zealand could not score a single run for 41 balls right at the beginning of the first innings. Despite going wicketless in the first innings, the right-arm pacer returned three for 46 in the second with scalps of Tom Latham and Ravindra - New Zealand's first and last recognised baters.
The whole team came together when adversity knocked at the door. Nothing was not in favour of the Tigers. But they fought all odds and emerged victorious. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.