Wellington: Bowling spearhead Trent Boult could return as the sole change for New Zealand in the first Test against Bangladesh in Wellington on Thursday.
Coming off back-to-back Test victories over Pakistan and a 3-0 triumphs in both the 50-over and Twenty20 series against Bangladesh, New Zealand are looking for a clean sweep of the tourists as they build towards the arrival of South Africa in March.
“We haven’t confirmed it yet, but it’s hard to see too many changes from our last Test,” captain Kane Williamson said on the eve of the Test, adding that Boult was getting back to his best form.
The left-arm fast bowler missed the second Test against Pakistan because of a knee injury but showed he had regained his express pace with deliveries in excess of 145 kilometres per hour (90mph) in the final Twenty20 against Bangladesh in Mount Maunganui on Sunday.
“Trent in the last T20 might have hit 145, 146 (kph) which is really promising,” Williamson said with Wellington’s Basin Reserve offering a green wicket and blustery conditions.
“We know when he’s bowling fast and swinging it for a long time he’s one of the best bowlers in the world. We’ll be hoping for more of that going into a lot of Test matches in the next wee while.”
– Runs ‘challenge’ –
With a schedule that demands frequent transition between formats, and with a one-day series against Australia to follow the two Bangladesh Tests, Williamson is keen for his bowlers to adjust quickly to Test conditions.
“The South African series is around the corner but we’ve got two tough Test matches before then. We want to see improvements again, so that’s certainly the focus going into the first Test match tomorrow — make those adjustments against a strong Bangladesh side.”
With the Basin wicket offering pace and bounce on the opening day, Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim is looking for his batsmen to prove themselves in unfamiliar conditions, something they were unable to do in the limited-over matches.
“Our main challenge will be for the batsmen to set up the Test match for the bowlers. We have to put up a good enough total for the bowlers to defend,” he said.
“Some of them like Tamim (Iqbal), Shakib (Al Hasan) and Mahmudullah have done well in Tests here in the past but now we need a collective effort from the batsmen, which we failed to do in the ODIs and T20s. We are capable so this is our opportunity to do it.”
Despite the unfamiliar conditions Mushfiqur said he believed he had the weaponry to produce Bangladesh’s first Test win over New Zealand if his bowlers can stick to their game plan.
“The pace bowlers have to take over the attacking role that the spinners have in home Tests,” he said.
“Bowlers do get excited by extra bounce but the best ball here, like any other pitch, is one that targets the top of off-stump.
“We have tried to pass on this message to our bowlers and also told them that even a top batsman needs one ball to get out.”