David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: A nightmare beyond compare

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First the good news for world cricket: Bangladesh are getting better. Not World Cup-winning better, but they are making progress.

They have a handful of decent players, have beaten all the major nations at the ODI game and in captain Shakib al Hasan they have one of the game's best allround performers.

They thoroughly deserved their 4-0 smearing of New Zealand. There can be no excuses.

New Zealand were in the top four on ODI rankings from January until May. Now they are seventh.

Okay, both warmup games were washed out, but New Zealand cannot say conditions in Mirpur caught them off guard; they'd have known what to expect.

Set aside test cricket for the moment - and that's a basket case of its own, operating on a tier well below the top five - this was New Zealand's worst ODI performance.

There have been other 'mares, but none to compare.

On the sex-and-drugs tour of South Africa in 1994-95, they played six ODIs against the hosts, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and lost five with the other a no-result heading towards a thumping.

In 1986 they were rolled for 64 by Pakistan in Sharjah in a 10-wicket hiding; four years later it was 74 all out to the same foe. Andrew Jones made 47, you can do the rest of the maths; three years ago it was 73 against Sri Lanka and Lasith Malinga at Eden Park.

But they were all top-quality teams, and all one-offs. Bangladesh are a hard-working, lower-level nation who sniffed a chance and were relentless.

New Zealand might argue that three of the four results were tight - nine, nine and three runs, although the first was a Duckworth-Lewis calculation, which despite best intentions can make an arse out of a run chase. To paraphrase one of Oscar Wilde's lines - to lose narrowly once is unfortunate, three times is not.

The final ODI on Sunday night had New Zealand at 20 for five, chasing 175. It was a complete shower of a batting performance, following others where those with the willows sorely let down the bowlers who toiled steadily.

Consider this: Brendon McCullum swung hard and sent his fifth ball straight up in the air; Jesse "Cement Feet" Ryder went nowhere on the crease to be lbw; BJ Watling was hopelessly run out in schoolboy fashion (forget that the decision was probably wrong, the outcome was deserved), Ross Taylor played all around a straight ball with a bat coming down from third slip; and Kane Williamson pushed out to edge to slip. Some batting had that "bags are packed" look to it. Not good enough.

Here's a sample of captain Dan Vettori's thoughts: "We are devastated by the result ... the whole dressing room is hurting immensely ... it is something that will stay with us a long time ... they showed us how to do a lot of the simple things in their conditions and if we don't learn from them we are a very poor team."

Take your pick. It all amounts to a shambles. New Zealand have now lost their last six completed ODIs, two in Sri Lanka and now this.

They head to India shortly for the third leg of a programme designed to prepare the players for the February-March World Cup in the sub-continent.

India, for goodness' sake. The world No 1 and recent conquerors of Australia, are operating on a different plane to New Zealand. Sachin Tendulkar, his eyes on his 50th test hundred, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Harbhajan, Zaheer Khan on their own turf. It's a shuddering thought.

The New Zealand squad will be named shortly. What will selectors Vettori, Mark Greatbatch and Glenn Turner make of this mess?

The cupboard is not exactly overflowing with options.

New Zealand are poor right now, but surely they're better than the often witless cricket on show in Bangladesh.

- NZ Herald

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