Tony Becca | ‘It was wasted on you’
There are two kinds of cricket teams in the world: there is the strong and there is the weak, and whenever the weak takes on the strong, it is called, at least in Jamaica, a 'sin side'.
And this is exactly what took place two weeks ago in New Zealand.
It was the first Test match between New Zealand and Bangladesh at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, and before the Test match started, New Zealand, with their growing reputation in cricket, with two "big" batsmen, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, and the two top bowlers, Tim Southee and Ian Boult, were expected to roll over Bangladesh.
That was not to be, at least not at the start, and not for the first four days.
The Basin Reserve in Wellington turned up with a "green" pitch, New Zealand won the toss and invited Bangladesh to bat first, and to New Zealand's surprise, with Shakib al Hasan hitting 217 and captain Mustifiqur Rahim 159, Bangladesh raced to 595 for eight declared batting into the third day after rain had interrupted play.
New Zealand then batted well into the fourth day to reach 539 with Tom Latham stroking 177, and with Bangladesh reaching 66 for three, including the loss of a night-watchman, at the end of the day's play, and with only one day remaining, everybody figured it would end not only a draw, but also in a stalemate.
New Zealand, however, had other ideas. They had hopes of a victory, hopes which were fuelled early in the proceedings by Bangladesh's poor batting, and especially that of Shakib.
Probably believing that 600 runs less five was good enough, or that the pitch was so good that so many wickets could not fall in the time left in the match and so they could not lose, Bangladesh slit their own throats with some of the poorest cricket and some of the worst shots ever seen in a Test arena.
Shakib's early swipe, at the fourth delivery of the day and without any addition to the score, was totally uncalled for, and thereafter, some of the shots were outrageous until they were dismissed for 160, leaving New Zealand with 217 to win the match in 57 overs.
Shakib's stroke, or attempted stroke, coming from a senior batsman, and an experienced batsman, and in a Test match, was uncalled for, to put it nicely.
In a Test match, however, with no limit on the number of overs per bowler, hardly any restrictions on field placings, and more freedom for the bowlers as far as wides were concerned, that was not an easy target.
Faced with some poor bowling, however, mostly short and wide deliveries by both pace and spin bowling to defensively set fields with no chance of getting the batsmen out, New Zealand hopped to victory in 39.4 overs, with Williamson hitting 104 not out off 90 deliveries and Taylor, 60, off 90 deliveries.
In the end, however, it was a Test match for the record books.
It was the highest first-innings total ever to lose a Test match, bettering Australia's 586 way back in 1894-95 at Sydney when they enforced the follow-on and lost to England by 10 runs and also Bangladesh, 556, in Mirpur as late as 2012-13, when they lost to the West Indies.
Williamson's century was the fourth fastest in chasing victory. It followed Gilbert Jessop's century off 76 deliveries for England against Australia at The Oval in 1902, Shahid Afridi's century off 78 deliveries against the West Indies at Kensington Oval, 2004-5, and Matthew Hayden's century against Zimbabwe at Sydney, 2003-4.
New Zealand's victory chase of a target of over 200 was also second fastest only to England's 205 in 5.77 overs against South Africa at The Oval in 2004, and the partnership of 163 off 25.2 overs by Williamson and Taylor was the quickest over 150 in the fourth innings of a Test match.
For its technical efficiency, however, the second and final Test match at Hagley Oval in Christchurch was even worse, especially as far as Bangladesh were concerned.
New Zealand won the toss again, sent Bangladesh to bat, and after fighting for a first-innings total of 289 and holding New Zealand to 354 in their first innings, and losing an entire day's play, Bangladesh lost the match in four days by nine wickets with a day to spare.
It was once again a second innings of mediocre, careless, and downright bad batting by the entire team, but again, especially by Shakib.
The bowling in the second innings was also atrocious.
Going to bat, 65 runs behind on the fourth day with the scoreboard reading 56 for two, Shakib was dropped twice in the slips on zero before being caught at gully for eight off Southee, playing recklessly at a short, wide, and high delivery.
It was downright reckless and careless, and unworthy of a man representing a team, much less his country.
New Zealand, with Williamson, Taylor, and Tom Latham, Southee, Boult, and Neil Wagner, were too good for lowly Bangladesh. Their deeds, especially in the first Test, and particularly after facing a huge first-innings score, were awesome, despite the opposition.
The two-match series reminded me of the day when a club cricketer, a batsman, and one who thought that he was as good as any batsman from anywhere and made no bones about his feeling, met upon an average first-class fast bowler.
The story is that after the bowler had beat the batsman with a number of deliveries, he bowled a straight one, a delivery which, in the words of the batsman, moved about a few times either way through the air before hitting the pitch, moved in another direction, and crashed into his stumps.
The frightened batsman, sheepishly turned to the bowler and said, almost under his breath before slowly strolling away: "That's a beauty. That's a really, really good delivery."
The bowler quietly and quickly replied: "Too bad it was wasted on you."