Tuesday, June 02, 2020
Updated: Saturday, February 20, 2010
Carn the Tigers: 5 days in Hamilton

Ian Whitchurch

Our Aussie fan Ian Wright puts his money as where his mouth is. He made the trek from Sydney, where he lives, to spend 5 days in Hamilton, New Zealand watching the often frustrating but always entertaining Tigers face the Kiwis for the only Test on their away tour to New Zealand. Enjoy this frank, funny and forthcoming report.

Day 0

HamiltonOk, so I finally got here, with only one hiccup.

I'm installed in a backpackers about a kilometer from the ground, and should be able to provide daily reports. The weather is vaguely kind of warm and muggy, with mixed cloud and sunshine.

I'm expecting a very small crowd, and media coverage here has been minimal.

Carn the Tigers.

Day 1

Weather: Morning dawned, with much cloud cover, drizzle and rain.

IanI expected a late start, and was pleasantly surprised when play started at 1pm and we kept going as long as we did.

I'd give the first session to Bangladesh, the second was even and what was played in the third belonged to New Zealand. At 5-258, the match is about evenly poised.

The Tigers were unlucky with umpiring decisions, and fielded OK rather than well - there was one missed catch that I remembered, and a couple of possible runouts missed.

The pitch had a greenish tinge, and had hints of variable bounce. I can't assess swing, as I was speculating under a nice tree at about a wide mid-on.

Shafiul bowled really, really well. He had pace, he had aggression and hurried the New Zealand batsmen when the ball was new.

Rubel was lucky rather than good for his 3 wickets. He also had pace and aggression, but had a tendency to offer too much width and got smacked when he did.

Shakib did his usual job despite the almost total lack of turn in the pitch. His accuracy was excellent - if you take out the single six he was hit for, he averaged about a run and a quarter per over. Vettori's wicket was also important.

The change bowlers - Mahmudullah and Aftab - were nothing special and had about 3 overs between them.

Shahadat was, well, Shahadat. A person who will remain nameless suggested that when Shahadat finally gets married, he feels sorry for the neighbors, as they will be kept awake by the loud volume grunts while the happy couple do what happy couples do. I replied that I did not think that was likely, as Shahadat will, as usual, miss his proper target and go down leg instead.

Of the New Zealanders, props to McCullum and Guptil, who batted well - they blocked Shakib, and took the runs on offer from loose balls from the other end.

The loser on the day was the sporting public of New Zealand. Total crowd was about two hundred. Danny Vettori should be annoyed that the people of New Zealand would not front up to watch their national side, on a ground less than 3 hours drive from the major NZ city.

I'll be there tomorrow in my red hat with a feather in it ; the game's there to be won. Carn the Tigers.

Day 2

Weather: No rain or drizzle this morning. There's cloud cover, but it's warmer and less humid. Game starts at 11.30 local time.

There are tough days at the office, and this was one of them. New Zealand put on 336 for the sixth wicket, with Guptill and McCullum batting chancelessly till fatigue caused them to lose concentration.

The pitch was doing absolutely and utterly nothing, and the short boundaries and fast outfield helped, but the running between wickets and decision making as to what to do to each ball was simply magnificent.

That said, our bowlers didn't bowl crap. Shaiful and Rubel were admirable in their bending their back and keeping it quick even when the score went over 500, and Shahadat bowled probably the spell of the day when he went around the wicket to a set leg-side trap. Shakib was accurate as usual, and Ashraful found turn and had at least one good shout.

If I have one criticism of the bowlers, it was the tendency to bowl too short too often. Too many bouncers went at head-height or higher rather than throat height, and Rubel was called more than once for wides from bouncers pitching halfway down the pitch.

The fielding was just okay ; there were no out-and-out drops, but the brilliant running between the wickets by McCullum and Guptill was better than the throws of the Bangladesh fielders.

I was much less impressed by the way Shakib refused to support his bowlers with anything vaguely attacking once the runs went over 400 or so - I was particularly unimpressed by keeping a third man for Rubel and Shaiful when they were bowling well, beating the bat and lacking any support whatsoever in the slips.

Once Vettori declared, Tanim and Imrul played an excellent partnership for 79 runs, until Imrul edged a skidder from Vettori. Junaid then avoided getting himself out until bad light stopped play with the Tigers at 1-87.

There are runs in buckets in this pitch - frequently, a solidly hit defensive shot ran for four, and just about anything hit well will beat 2 fielders on the short boundaries. If you pick the balls to hit and keep the ball on the ground, there are 60 runs an hour out there. Bangladesh have begun to eat their way though the elephant quite well, and Martin, Tuffey and Southee all bowled loose crap that was deservedly hit for four.

Carn the Tigers. I'll be there tomorrow with my red hat with a feather in it.

Day 3

Weather: Grey, cloudy, overcast and a little humid. The usual in short. Carn the Tigers.

Bangladesh conclusively lost the first session, losing five wickets for about a hundred and twenty runs.

It was what I can only describe as "the usual crap" - a collection of waves outside off stump, get-out shots and half-hearted prods.

I'll summa rise it for you.

After getting a reasonable start with some bat on ball, [insert name here] got out to some dumb cricket.

Then Shakib and Mahmudullah then came together, and we limped into lunch at 6 down for about 200.

By a combination of smart cricket, good running between wickets and hitting balls that deserved to be hit, they took the score along to 341 for a follow-on saving partnership.

Shakib's duel with Vettori was a gem, with attack and counter-attack, and footwork opposed to guile.

But, personally, I was more impressed by Mahmudullah's application against Vettori - step forward with back foot anchored and smother the spin, and then do it again. And again. And again.

There were runs on offer against Patel and the quicker bowlers - who were both slower and less impressive than either Shaiful or Rubel. Remember, the pitch is doing absolutely nothing, and there have been only about 3 wickets to anything other than a get-out shot.

MahmudullahAfter Shakib got out, and if you read tomorrow's paper you'll see he was out, Mahmudullah and the tail played very, very well to push the score beyond psychologically important 400 mark. I want to give a particular shout-out to Shaiful, who came in at 362 and walked off the field with the score at 408 - that 46 runs, and the time needed to score them, is the difference between Vettori declaring 500 ahead and 400 ahead.

Then the Tigers came in, with their tails up, the crowd behind them and bowled with venom and fielded like demons. Shakib got a miracle run-out, and there was a good LBW shout turned down.

New Zealand ended up 1-9, a lead of 154. If the Tigers bowl well and field well, then the Black Caps can collapse for a very gettable total.

If the Black Caps do not collapse, Danny Vettori has to be aware that realistically, rain and bad light will only allow about 10 hours play. Given Bangladesh can score at 100 an hour on this pitch, it will be a very interesting decision as to when to declare.

The Tigers can win this.

Day 4

Weather: Its warmer and more humid, with higher cloud cover and a little breeze. Looks like a very good day for cricket I'll be there, under my tree with my mates, in my red hat with a feather in it, watching Bangladesh make history

Today saw the Tigers, through good, accurate bowling, limit New Zealand to a very gettable target of 404.

After making a bright start, Tanim mis-hit a Daniel Vettori ball to mid-on, and then the top order imploded. As usual.

Shakib and Mushfiqur are still there, with Mahmudullah to bat.

Basically, tomorrow has to be an hour at a time.

Today was about respect, and we just lost a bucket load.

Day 5

Weather: It is a bright, clear, magnificent late summer day here in Hamilton. The sun is shining, the sky is about 80% blue, and it will be a great day for batting. We're here for the whole six hours, in short.

It is said that a French general described the Charge of the Light Brigade as "C'est magnifque, mais ce n'est pas la guerre" ... "It was magnificent, but it wasn't war".

Shakib's charge on the fifth morning at Hamilton was like that ; coming in on zero with five wickets down and 88 runs on the board, he is not out 98 at lunch with the side at 7-255.

He took it up to the bowlers, hitting an amazing eighteen off one Vettori over.

Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah helped, but were out - Mushfiqur to an outside edge, and Mahmudullah caught in the deep on the charge - and Shahadat did sterling service with a well-earned and tough no runs. Don't think I'm praising with faint damns there, while Rajib was putting the front foot forward and chancelessly blocking Vettori and Patel, Shakib was scoring at the other end.

Then, his century in the bag after lunch, he went the charge against Southee and was bowled, with resistance rapidly fading thereafter, despite some bright hitting by Shahadat and Shafiul.

The game had been lost the night before, with a series of brain explosions by the alleged batsmen in the Bangladesh top order leaving the bottom five with another mission impossible, but Shakib's charge caused some nervous moments for the New Zealand fans I shared my tree with, as the runs required went from 300 to 280 to 260 to 240 to 220.

While he was there, all things were possible.

But then he had a brain explosion, and then resistance was futile.

I was there. I saw it ; but I just wish we'd had another 2 wickets in hand when it was on, even if those two were Aftab and Ashraful.

C'est magnifique.