Latham proves value in tough situation

Minutes after Tom Latham ran three to complete his sixth Test century, half the crowd exited Basin Reserve. They had been cheering for him all this time, and when he raised his bat the applause was louder than anything heard over the last three days of the Test. They walked away cheerfully too, assured that New Zealand were in a secure position.

There is safety in Latham's defence, as he shifts his weight back to block with the middle of his bat. The stroke is effortless, belying the delivery hurtling towards him. There's also a bit of Kumar Sangakkara in his forward press, and especially when he drives through the off side. While such a comparison may be daunting for a young batsman, the resemblance doesn't go much further. They are both left-hand batsmen, so some of their shots look similar.

Latham's quality - in how he finds boundaries despite there being little width - along with the quantity of deliveries he tackles with precision, makes him the complete package, especially for an opener who plies his trade in New Zealand's seaming conditions.

He also has the numbers when compared to other New Zealand batsmen who opened, having made his sixth Test century in his 28th Test, in response to Bangladesh's first-innings score of 595. Former captain Glenn Turner had six hundreds in his first 31 Tests, while John Wright's first six took 50 matches. Latham was also only the second opener, after Wright, to score a Test hundred at Basin Reserve in 87 years.

Ross Taylor said Latham was the first New Zealand opener since the mid-2000s to make his place in the XI a permanent one, adding to the solidity provided by Kane Williamson in their top order.

"For a while, apart from Mark Richardson, we've been to-ing and fro-ing with a lot of openers," Taylor said. "Tom put his hand up and he's one of the first picked. In our conditions, an opener and a No. 3 are very important.

"We have a world-class No. 3 in Kane Williamson and we've got a consistent opener in Tom Latham. He's still young but he's earning his stripes in the team and he batted outstandingly well. It isn't an easy place to open, and for him to come out and bat as positively as he did, took lot pressure off the incoming batsmen."

Latham ended the third day at Basin Reserve on 119, with New Zealand on 292 for 3, trailing by 303 runs. "We need him to carry on again and get a big score," Taylor said. "I'm not sure what his personal best is, but it'd be good to get that and carry on.

"It's a pretty good batting wicket. At best, maybe day five is a better gauge on whether it's breaking up a little bit. At the moment it's still pretty good and we'll take that confidence into tomorrow that we can still bat a period of time."