Bangladesh to Face New Zealand in 2023/24 Season Opener: 1st Test Match Preview

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Big picture: New cycle brings new hope

The first Test match after the World Cup in India is taking place in Sylhet, which geographically, is not a million miles away, but certainly in terms of atmosphere, it is another world. New Zealand are playing their first Test in eight months, Bangladesh in five months. It is the kick-off point for the World Test Championship for both teams, so at the very least, points are at stake. New Zealand were the defending champions in the last cycle, but they were nowhere near close to making the final. That might just have prompted them to be that little bit more switched on, resulting in bringing their best team on this tour after sending a second-string side for the ODIs that were played here in September. Everything was different then. Kane Williamson will lead the batting unit alongside Tom Latham, Devon Conway and Henry Nicholls in the top four. Daryl Mitchell and Rachin Ravindra, having totalled five centuries between them in the World Cup, will be brimming with confidence. Captain Tim Southee will lead a bowling attack that is likely to be spin-dominated. Ish Sodhi is in the mix – he took a six-for against Bangladesh this year, albeit in a different format. Mitchell Santner seems a good shout to play his first Test in over two years. Ajaz Patel is another major option for their selectors. Ravindra’s all-round skills will be key, while Neil Wagner too could expect to bowl a lot if he is the second seamer with Southee. Bangladesh have their own reasons to want to get on the field quickly. They had a poor World Cup campaign. The aftermath hasn’t been great either and they go into this series without many of their key players. Captain Shakib Al Hasan and his deputy Litton Das are out. So are fast bowlers Taskin Ahmed and Ebadot Hossain. Apart from Litton who was given paternity leave, the rest are all injured. Bangladesh have had to rethink their bowling attack even as Shakib and Tamim Iqbal have left big holes in the batting line-up. Mahmudul Hasan Joy and Zakir Hasan are the likely openers, but a lot will depend on captain Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim. Taijul Islam and Mehidy Hasan Miraz will carry the inexperienced bowling attack. The picture ain’t pretty for Bangladesh, but Sylhet could provide the sort of exit they want from the talk about the World Cup, which doesn’t seem to end in Bangladesh.

Form guide

Bangladesh WWLLL (last five Tests, most recent first), New Zealand WWWLD

In the spotlight: Mominul Haque and Rachin Ravindra

Usually Mominul Haque doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. He was the highest run-getter in the recently-concluded National Cricket League first-class tournament so batting form may not be a big worry for the left-hander. There will be a lot of interest in Rachin Ravindra after his World Cup bonanza. He is likely to have a different role in the Test series against Bangladesh, probably batting down the order and involved in a lot of bowling.

Team news: Extra spinners in both XIs

Nurul Hasan will take Litton’s place behind the stumps, while Khaled Ahmed is likely to take Taskin’s spot in the bowling unit. Nayeem Hasan is likely to be the third spinner if they choose a five-man attack. New Zealand have a spin puzzle to solve. Ravindra is likely to bat in the top six after a stellar World Cup campaign, but there could be a toss-up between Ajaz, Santner and Sodhi for two positions.

Pitch and conditions: Sylhet is good for batting

Sylhet’s reputation as the best batting ground in Bangladesh was strengthened by the five white-ball international matches held this year. It hasn’t hosted a Test in five years but during this period, there have been six 400-plus scores in first-class matches at this venue. The weather is mostly dry, with the breeze coming down from the hillside often helping drop the temperature further.

Stats and trivia

• Sylhet is hosting only its second Test match. The first match was in 2018 when Zimbabwe beat Bangladesh.
• New Zealand are playing Tests in Bangladesh after exactly ten years. Bangladesh, meanwhile, have toured New Zealand in 2017, 2019 and 2022 to play six Tests in total.
• Shanto has become Bangladesh’s captain within five years of making his Test debut. That’s a quicker climb to leadership than Mushfiqur and Mominul, both of whom became captains six years after their respective Test debuts.


“Dusting off the whites and back together as a Test group. We achieved some pretty cool things in the backend of last summer. It has been a heavy diet of white-ball cricket so the guys are excited to be back in Test cricket. Start of the World Test Championship cycle is exciting.” Tim Southee
can’t wait to get back to work”I personally believe I can lead the team in all formats. It is easier for anyone to plan as a long-term captain. Whoever comes through as the next captain, he will have a better time if he gets a longer rope.” Najmul Hossain Shanto
on taking on Bangladesh’s Test captain for this seriesMohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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