New Zealand v Bangladesh first test: Five talking points to watch for in series opener
It's been one-way traffic as New Zealand host Bangladesh for the third time in a Basin Reserve cricket test, starting on Thursday.
Both previous contests were one-sided affairs: New Zealand winning by an innings and 74 runs in 2001 then an innings and 137 in 2008.
From those two tests, Chris Martin was the only player to make the Basin honours board for five wickets or a century, after he took 5-65 in 2008.
Ahead of a test the Black Caps should win comfortably on recent form, we look at five talking points from the two-test series opener.
Christmas arrived again for Henry Nicholls when he retained his test spot, with an average of 24 and not having topped 30 in his last six innings. Coach Mike Hesson kept the faith in their long-term project, and one big score against a modest Bangladesh attack will seal Nicholls' South Africa spot. Miss out in Wellington and Christchurch, though, and Neil Broom or Colin Munro will be serious contenders to usurp him in March.
TAYLOR MADE RECORD
Ross Taylor hasn't played a match since December 31 but he's been the only story in town this week. Miffed at his Twenty20 axing, then annoyed by NZ Cricket blocking his Australian T20 cameo, Taylor's form and state of mind will be intriguing at a ground where he averages 56 in test cricket. One more century and he draws level with his late mentor Martin Crowe's record of 17, a phenomenal achievement. Seeing clearly after eye surgery and coming off ton No 16 in Hamilton, you wouldn't bet against him doing it this week or next.
Colin de Grandhomme made a dream start to his test career in Christchurch but the nagging doubt remains as to whether he's a test No 6. You get the feeling he'd be better value down lower with licence to blaze away, but Mitchell Santner is also a questionmark at six. Jimmy Neesham looks the best fit in that spot but his bowling needs work and recent signs are encouraging. If de Grandhomme keeps taking bags of wickets he'll be very hard to drop, and a big score would seal his spot for the rest of the year.
FIGHT IN THE TIGER
Bangladesh played with so much spirit and skill on our shores in the 2015 World Cup it seemed they'd turned the corner. Alas, on return they ran into a brick wall and still look a level below on the road, compounded by some woeful catching and ground fielding. Batting remains a worry, and they need experienced men Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah to be scoring big runs to give their promising bowling attack a chance. With bouncy pitches and green grass to cause some angst, they don't inspire much confidence of a contest with three wins from 43 tests away from home.
Just another day in paradise is forecast for day one in Wellington. MetService predicts drizzle and gale northerlies of up to 120kmh on Thursday, with much improved weather expected on day two. On a green, softish Basin Reserve pitch, both skippers will want to bowl first but it will be tough for the pacemen in the gale. The TAB has the Black Caps $1.20 favourites to make it five tests from five against Bangladesh at home, with the tourists at a lofty $18 for victory.