The first Test match between New Zealand and Bangladesh will be held in Hamilton, a sprawling city on the banks of New Zealand's largest river, the Waikato. Despite having less than 2,50,000 people, Hamilton takes up a lot of room, having a land area roughly the size of Mumbai, Paris and Manhattan Island combined. This allows for a city with lots of parks and gardens but unfortunately did not result in a large cricket Ground. Seddon Park is, like a lot of New Zealand cricket grounds, quite small.
(The first New Zealand vs Bangladesh Test will start at 3.30 AM from February 28. The match will be shown on Star Sports Network )
However, relatively short boundaries doesn't always equate to high scoring rates in Test cricket. Teams have scored at about 3.3 runs per over in Hamilton recently, which is bang on average for grounds that have hosted a reasonable number of matches.
About 30 percent of all overs in the past 10 years have been bowled by spin, but spinners have tended to do more of a holding role, conceding fewer runs per over, but only getting a wicket every 11.5 overs, as opposed to every 8.5 overs for quick bowlers.
It's New Zealand's only inland Test ground (every other ground is less than 6km from the coast) and with that comes some slightly different conditions from other New Zealand grounds. The tide doesn't play a part, generally the ball will either swing or not swing for the whole day, rather than changing through the day. It also seems to affect the light. Matthew Hayden declared it as the hardest ground to see the ball at in the world. Of the grounds to have hosted at least 20 matches, only SuperSport Park in Centurion has had fewer century opening partnerships or 50 run opening partnerships than Seddon Park. It tends to be a ground where wickets fall quite frequently, and as a result, draws are uncommon.
It has been a particularly happy hunting ground for left-arm pace bowlers. Of the 11 left-arm pace bowlers who have bowled more than 30 overs here, 9 of them average less than 27. As a result, Mustafizur Rahman, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner will all be looking forward to bowling here.
Tim Southee has also experienced considerable success at this ground. He lives nearby and being able to sleep at home seems to agree with him. He's taken 37 wickets at 20 to be the second-highest wicket taker at the ground, only one behind Vettori, who played almost twice the number of matches.
Rounding out New Zealand's bowling line-up will probably be Colin de Grandhomme and Todd Astle. It's hard to see Matt Henry forcing his way in. De Grandhomme becomes incredibly dangerous when there's something in the wicket and he has enjoyed bowling in Hamilton in the past. He is likely to get a chance with a fairly new ball due to Neil Wagner's reputation as a "kookaburra killer" - someone who destroys the new ball.
Todd Astle is an intriguing selection. He's played three matches, all three of those matches New Zealand have won, but he hasn't really played a significant role in any of them with the ball. He has generally done his job but nothing more. However, in domestic cricket recently it's been him and Ajaz Patel who have been the leading spin bowlers. His batting is probably what separates him from Patel, but he hasn't really done much with the bat either in international cricket yet.
The batting line-up is fairly settled, the only question being if perhaps Will Young might come in for Jeet Raval. Young is a middle-order batsman in domestic cricket and so it would be an unlikely switch, but he has been asked to open in some matches for New Zealand A.
Other than that, Latham will be the other opener followed by Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls with BJ Watling probably batting at number 7 and wearing the gloves.
It's one of the most settled line-ups New Zealand have ever put together, in the last 3 years New Zealand have only used 19 players in home matches and 24 in total. This continuity of selection is in part due to New Zealand's good record in the same period, with only India having a better win/loss record and only India and South Africa having a bigger positive difference between collective batting and bowling averages. However, it could be argued that the continuity of selection is a driver of the success, rather than simply and outcome of it.
In contrast, Bangladesh have picked 22 players in their last 6 Tests, and are likely to go outside that group in this match.
The most interesting possible selection is Ebadot Hossain, who was picked from a pace academy out of nowhere, and has gone on to be the top pace bowler in domestic first-class cricket in Bangladesh. How he copes with the extra workload and adapts to New Zealand pitches will be fascinating. His success has mostly been from bowling back of a length, which is not likely to get as much reward on New Zealand pitches as pitching it up, but if he does manage to adapt well, he could be a fascinating prospect. Courtney Walsh certainly rates him highly, and Walsh knows a thing or two about bowling in New Zealand.
The other pace bowlers who are likely to be used are Abu Jayed and Mustafizur. All three are used to bowling about 15 overs per innings, but they're likely to be asked to bowl roughly double that in these Tests. That extra demand both physically and mentally will be almost as much of a challenge as the New Zealand batsmen.
Shakib Al Hasan is still under an injury cloud, and his presence or absence is likely to be a big factor in deciding how competitive Bangladesh are going to be. His record against New Zealand is extraordinary and if he maintains that, he could be the factor that reduces the difference between the teams.
Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah have both experienced success in New Zealand and Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque have both been successful against New Zealand, so, when combined with the exciting Shadman Islam there is the potential for some big innings from Bangladesh.
Historically, New Zealand have had the wood on Bangladesh in this format. All but three of the matches have been won by New Zealand and the other three ended in draws. The three draws all suffered weather interruptions, although one of them only lost one hour of play. The good news for this match is that rain is unlikely. The forecast for five days is of warm days and clear skies.
That forecast might mean that one of cricket's rarest events might happen. A captain winning the toss in New Zealand might choose to have a bat.
WG Grace, Victor Richardson and Don Bradman have all been credited with being the first to say "9 out of 10 times you bat first, and the 10th time you think about bowling, then bat anyway." Whoever it was that said it, they had not watched many Tests in New Zealand. But limited overhead cloud might prompt a brave captain to try batting first.
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