Bangladesh show bench is strong

Nurul Hasan flicks the ball through square leg AFP

The absence of three influential players from the Bangladesh line-up opened up a hole for New Zealand to exploit. Luckily for the first-time visitors at Hagley Oval, the replacements batted to a degree of stability that was mostly unexpected.

Debutants Nurul Hasan and Nazmul Hossain Shanto contributed with a partnership of 53 for the sixth wicket, and the former narrowly missed out on a maiden fifty. Soumya Sarkar struck an attacking 86 and shared a partnership of 127 for the third wicket with Shakib Al Hasan. Bangladesh showed flair, exuberance and solidity in the face of a strong bowling attack.

Bangladesh's 289 is a below-par total in the first innings of a Test match, especially on a pitch where run-making is supposed to get easier as the game progresses. But hindsight shouldn't cloud pre-match expectations. Bangladesh were supposed to roll over without Mushfiqur Rahim, Imrul Kayes and Mominul Haque. Instead, they were mostly in control until the lunch session, and only lost their way through two soft dismissals: Sarkar's half-hearted drive to cover and Shakib's tickle down the leg-side to Watling.

Before that, however, the pair batted superbly. Sarkar was severe against Tim Southee, Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner, getting all his eleven boundaries and batting at a strike rate of 87-plus against them. He faced only 16 deliveries from Trent Boult, scoring seven runs before spooning a catch to cover.

Most of Sarkar's runs came on the off side, but his three boundaries through the leg side were sweetly timed. He found many runs behind square on the off side, but the driving through covers - less feet, more hands and wrists - looked more elegant.

Sarkar said that he had been waiting for the opportunity to break into the Test top order, but should have made a bigger score on this occasion.

"The focus was on playing a big innings in my first time as a Test opener," he said after that day's play. "It was a big opportunity for me so if I had made a bigger contribution, I would have felt better. I am comfortable as an opener but Imrul and Tamim have been successful as a pair for a long time. I was always waiting for an opportunity to prove myself.

"I needed runs, regardless of the format. I was just waiting for an opportunity to make runs. My main target was to bring myself back to my former position. I am not satisfied with my effort though."

He also praised debutants Shanto and Nurul, for batting well in the partnership that revived Bangladesh after a slump.

"They batted well.They attacked the pace bowlers and did well batting together."

Shanto was inducted into the playing XI at the the last minute after Mominul Haque was ruled out late on Thursday evening, and gave an impressive account of his batting technique for the 56 deliveries he lasted. He is a strong defender of the ball, and has potential to score heavily off the back foot. The Test debut was too sudden for an apprentice of the senior side, but Nazmul showed that he is willing to do the hard work given the opportunity.

Nurul also showed his inclination for a scrap through his homespun technique of a high backlift and low grip, which helped him play the ball as late as possible. He managed to bring his first-class form into his Test debut, hitting fours over mid-on and past point, and also through the slips and fine-leg to make 47. He deserved a fifty mainly because of the way he handled the short-of-length deliveries, and didn't really need to play the hook shot that got him out.

The trio have, so far, done a fine job as replacements for the more accomplished players. Sarkar would be considered a contender for the opening slot, but that may not be the case for Shanto or Hasan who may have to make way for Mominul and Mushfiqur soon enough. However, it was a timely reminder of Bangladesh's bench strength, and the players will have to pull their weight in a Test match that requires them to do a little better in the second innings.