New Zealand win the battle of first day nerves
John Ward - 17 May 1999

CricInfo report


On a rather cold, overcast and rather blustery morning Stephen Fleming won the toss for New Zealand and decided to put Bangladesh in to bat. These conditions of course favoured the New Zealanders rather than the Bangladeshis, who may be used to rain but certainly to little else they encounter here. The pitch typically looked likely to yield a bit of early life but was expected to settle down later into a fine batting track, which did in fact happen.

New Zealand might well have decided to bat first against weak opposition to ensure a better opportunity to bat, but their captain Stephen Fleming said after the match that they had wanted to practise chasing a target. Bangladesh were rocked right from the start of their innings by left-arm pace bowler Geoff Allott, who removed the unrelated openers Shahriar and Mehrab Hossain, earning genuine-looking lbw decisions with balls that straightened and caught the batsmen right in front.

Captain Aminul Islam, along with Akram Khan, was not intimidated by the early losses and played positive cricket, attacking the loose ball boldly as they added 31 for the third wicket. Aminul was first to go, heaving across the line to Cairns and having his middle stump knocked out of the ground. It was a disappointing end to a promising innings. Gavin Larsen replaced Nash and had a fairly close lbw appeal against Akram turned down by Indian umpire Srinivas Venkataraghavan from his first ball. His third ball, however, had Akram playing too early and hitting a firm return catch. It was not a good stroke in the circumstances, when consolidation was needed after the loss of Aminul in the previous over, and suggested that nerves might be getting the better of the Bangladeshis.

Larsen was not long in striking again, moving a ball in to Khaled Mashud to bowl him through the gate for just 4 runs. He was replaced by the other Khaled, Mahmud, who clipped his first ball away to get off the mark very confidently. He continued to look aggressive, but it was a short and risky innings. He was dropped by Cairns, a return catch to his right, but next ball chipped a full toss to extra cover to be out for 3.

Mohammad Rafique then fell lbw to the first ball he faced, to Cairns, making it umpire Robinson^s third lbw of the day, none of which aroused any controversy, and putting him in danger of getting frostbite in his right index finger. Enamul Huq, the left-hander, came in and the eighth-wicket pair lived enterprisingly, if rather dangerously at times. Enamul slashed a ball from Allott to the third-man boundary which almost carried for six. He was almost run out shortly afterwards, perhaps dallying a little between the wickets for a hit by Naimur to backward point, but the third umpire showed him narrowly home.

This pair fought back well until Larsen brought back a ball into Naimur Rahman and umpire Venkataraghavan adjudged him lbw, playing forward. At 85 for eight, Bangladesh were still doubtful candidates for reaching 100. Larsen finished his ten-over spell with three wickets for 19 runs, a fine piece of bowling. Chris Harris replaced him and quickly bowled Enamul with a full-length floater that had the batsman playing haplessly down the wrong line. His 19 was the highest of the innings, and last man 19-year-old Monjurul Islam came in, with another four runs needed to reach 100.

Hasibul was not worried, as he brought up three figures with a massive six off Harris; unorthodox cross bat it may have been, but it went over long-on to land on the roof of the commentary box. 12 came off the over, with Hasibul slashing a four through extra cover to finish it off.

There was a controversial end to the innings as Allott bowled a full toss which appeared to be slightly above waist height to Hasibul, who pulled it straight into the hands of midwicket Horne. Such balls should be called as no-balls, but the umpires allowed it to stand. Hasibul made a valuable 16 and Monjurul played his part well in a minor role. There was still time for New Zealand to go in to bat before the lunch interval. Nathan Astle, perhaps over-eager to get the score moving, off-drove Monjurul without getting his foot to the ball and hammered a catch straight at mid-off Aminul to be dismissed for 4.

Hasibul in his second over moved a ball sharply off the pitch and shouted for lbw against Horne, but the ball was actually doing too much and would have missed leg stump. The New Zealand batsmen did not seem as calm and collected as they should have done, and played a few false and unnecessary strokes. Hasibul bowled a fine over to Craig McMillan, who seemed to have little idea of how to play just before lunch with plenty of overs to spare. However they survived until lunch without further loss.

Afterwards New Zealand soon showed their wish to get the match over, with some enterprising strokeplay, including two fours by McMillan off successive balls from Hasibul. Twice, though, there were lbw appeals, one by each bowler and one against each batsman, which were rejected but could not have been far away.

McMillan advanced down the pitch to hit Hasibul over mid-off for four, a positive stroke, but completely misjudged a slower delivery later in the over, playing far too early and with too much bottom hand, and popping up an easy catch to Naimur Rahman at midwicket.

New Zealand continued to look for runs, but at the same time still played some false strokes. Hasibul almost pulled off a brilliant caught and bowled from Fleming, driving too ambitiously. Certainly the batsmen kept the fielders in a regular state of anticipation.

Horne at last began to open up, twice lashing fours through the covers, although both might have resulted in catches had they encountered a fielder on the way. But gradually New Zealand began to bat more securely, and it seemed they might go through to victory without further loss when Fleming slashed at a ball from Mohammad Rafique, in his first over, outside the off stump and wicket-keeper Khaled Masud took a good catch off the bottom edge.

The new batsman Roger Twose brought up the hundred with a powerful drive off Mohammad, swung over long-on slightly across the line; it landed in a nearby garden and a replacement had to be found. Naimur Rahman came on to bowl and he immediately took a wicket, as Horne played back and was trapped in front of his stumps. His 35 came off 86 balls and included 4 fours. Chris Cairns came in, just the man to hammer the way to victory. Instead he chose the way of caution, and New Zealand moved to their inevitable victory without further setbacks. Like all the other World Cup matches to date, the favourites won. Fleming admitted after the match that his team had been nervous in their first match, but it should be good practice for their encounter with the Australians at Cardiff on Thursday.