While the cricketing world’s focus in on
India’s ongoing battle with Australia, New Zealand’s preparations
for a tough assignment across the Tasman continues in Chittagong

The two-test series with Bangladesh may have been relegated to
virtual non-event status but there is plenty riding on it for New
Zealand, particularly their notoriously fragile top and middle

Matches in Chittagong and Mirpur represent the last opportunity
for New Zealand’s batsmen to find some semblance of form before they
venture to Brisbane and Adelaide next month.

They will not be encountering top quality opposition — despite
Bangladesh’s surprising first-up win in the one-day series — and
the pitch conditions will bear little resemblance to The Gabba or
Adelaide Oval.

But time in the middle is paramount for a batting unit whose
collective contributions have often negated honest toil from their

New Zealand faced a similar scenario four years ago — a low-key
romp against Bangladesh before they headed to Australia for a taste
of their own medicine.

Coach John Bracewell hoped this exercise would be more

“We have to learn from what we failed to do in Bangladesh last
time,” he said.

“We played at a faster pace in the test matches. We have to
readjust our thinking. You can get caught up in trying to finish the
test matches in three days and playing at an accelerated pace but we
need to take our time.”

Before the tour Bracewell said the batsmen had been told to
occupy the crease for a minimum of five sessions.

He might have scaled down his expectations after viewing an
uneven and crack-laden test wicket at the Divisional Stadium
yesterday — but there was no escaping the need for Jamie How,
Aaron Redmond, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor to score heavily.

Redmond, fresh from a morale-boosting NZ A tour of India, has an
opportunity to nail down the opening berth he was handed for the
first time in England four months ago.

His debut series produced a top score of 28 and average of nine,
leaving him plenty of scope for improvement before facing the likes
of Brett Lee and Stuart Clark.

Ryder is likely to slot in at first drop for his test debut with
Taylor following at four.

Wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum, Daniel Flynn and Jacob Oram round
out the specialists and if all goes to plan the latter, rated today
as the No 1 allrounder in ODI cricket, will not see much action with
the bat.

In six previous tests — all victories — against Bangladesh, New
Zealand have only had to bat twice once, emphasising the need for
batsmen to use their time wisely.

“It’s something you have to deal with,” Oram said, adding: “As
a middle order player I’d love to see the top order do their jobs.

“Guys at the top have shown glimpses, it would be great for them
to take some confidence to Australia.”

Captain Daniel Vettori said the team’s confidence was also
building after their seven wicket loss to Bangladesh in the opening
ODI last Thursday.

New Zealand duly won the last two games to avoid becoming the
first major nation to lose a series to Bangladesh.

“It’s our first test in a long time as well so that will bring
its own set of nerves and obviously there are new guys in the team
as well but I think we’re confident.

“We’ve had a bit of time under our belt in the middle things
start to click a little bit more.”

New Zealand have only one selection issue to settle before the
toss — Tim Southee, Iain O’Brien and Mark Gillespie are vying to be
the second seamer to share the new ball with Kyle Mills.

Vettori and fellow spinner Jeetan Patel are expected to shoulder
most of the bowling workload.

Bangladesh (from): Mohammad Ashraful (captain), Mashrafe Mortaza,
Tamim Iqbal, Zunaed Siddique, Rajin Saleh, Shakib Al Hasan, Mehrab
Hossain, Naeem Islam, Mushfiqur Rahim, Abdur Razzak, Syed Rasel,
Shahadat Hossain, Mahbubul Alam.

New Zealand (possible): Daniel Vettori (captain), Aaron Redmond,
Jamie How, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum, Daniel Flynn,
Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Jeetan Patel.