Tour review

New Zealand vs Bangladesh, 2018-19

Andrew Alderson

One-day internationals (3): New Zealand 3, Bangladesh 0
Test matches (2): New Zealand 2, Bangladesh 0

Life in New Zealand lurched into numb horror at 1.40pm on March 15, 2019. An Australian white-supremacist gunman entered the Al Noor mosque near Hagley Park in Christchurch and murdered 42 people, before killing seven more at the Linwood Islamic Centre across town. Two more died later, taking the death toll to 51. A further 50 were injured. The atrocity occurred about half a mile from Hagley Oval, where the Third Test against Bangladesh was due to start next day. A press conference with Mahmudullah, the tourists' captain, had overrun, and the team headed for Al Noor later than expected. Their bus arrived seconds after the gunman had run out. Death was everywhere, panic reigned, and the players made hasty calls to the journalists they had just left. They decided to abandon the bus and ran back to the haven of Hagley Oval, encountering the press, who were rushing to help.

Within three hours, the New Zealand board had abandoned the Test. "I've spoken to my counterpart at Bangladesh Cricket," said their chief executive David White. "We agree it's inappropriate to play cricket at this time. Both teams are deeply affected."

The tourists flew home immediately. Any perception of New Zealand as immune from terrorism had disappeared. There were many questions - about racism, security intelligence and gun laws. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern mourned "one of New Zealand's darkest days", vowed never to mention the terrorist's name, and wore a hijab out of solidarity with the Muslim community. She gave assurances that inclusivity would help the healing, and offered a pledge: "They are us."

As the country reeled, New Zealanders' tolerance and compassion provided at least some balm. The tragedy, in a city recovering from a devastating earthquake, reduced New Zealand's Test and one-day international wins to insignificance. For what little it mattered, Bangladesh had now gone 15 Tests without defeating New Zealand, who justified their No. 2 ranking with a fifth consecutive series victory, extending their best sequence.

Both Tests followed a similar formula. Bangladesh were sent in, and offered resistance that would have struggled to heat a light-bulb filament. New Zealand countered with two crushing first innings. Batting had proved Bangladesh's downfall during the one-day internationals as well, twice losing four wickets inside the ten powerplay overs. Only a few of the tourists shone. Mahmudullah's crisis leadership in the absence of Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim was strong in the Tests, as was the follow-me approach of Tamim Iqbal, with 278 runs at an average of nearly 70.

For New Zealand, format-specialists thrived. Neil Wagner took 16 cheap wickets in the Tests, with 14 coming from balls directed at armpits. Some questioned his ethics, but not his accuracy or tenacity. Few maiden centuries, meanwhile, had been harder earned than opener Jeet Raval's: he got there in his 28th innings, after regularly and stoically taking the shine off the ball. B-J. Watling overtook Adam Parore's wicketkeeping dismissals record, and Martin Guptill returned to his one-day pomp with consecutive centuries.

One disappointment was the DRS. On the third day of the First Test, New Zealand reviewed a first-ball caught-behind decision against Mahmudullah. A noise was heard on the audio track one frame after the ball passed the bat. That lag between sound and vision was understood to have been discussed between television bosses and match officials before the game, but conveyed to few others, including the fans. The only way to reduce the time difference was apparently by moving from a 25-frame-a-second camera to a more expensive super slo-mo device. Mahmudullah was given not out.

Soon after the abrupt end of the tour, Mustafizur Rahman and Mehedi Hasan were both married: two shafts of light after a passage of darkness.

© John Wisden & Co