Cricket: Batsmen do the business

By David Leggat

Better, but far from the finished article.

New Zealand stepped up a gear to wrap up their ODI series against Bangladesh with a game in hand at McLean Park yesterday. No surprises there, but there were enough encouraging aspects - albeit against opponents who did not stretch them yesterday - to leave the hosts reasonably content and looking to finish the job emphatically in Queenstown on Monday.

Rain and its old friends Duckworth and Lewis, brought an early end, Bangladesh were getting batting practice at 181 for six chasing New Zealand's 335 for five at McLean Park.

The official margin, under the D/L system being 102 runs.

New Zealand's batsmen filled their boots on a good pitch against a pile of ordinary bowling, after Daniel Vettori had won his 15th ODI toss in 19 games.

Flogging 335 in 50 overs is not to be sneezed at, and it gets a place among New Zealand's all time top 10 totals. But there was a nagging feeling it could - should - have been more.

No one got the big hundred the selectors would like to see.

There hasn't been one since Scott Styris against Sri Lanka at the World Cup in April.

That's 11 games without a ton, and counting.

Openers Jamie How and Brendon McCullum climbed in with a breezy opening stand of 82. How had a century in his grasp for the second time in three days only to squander it at 74, leg before wicket playing back and across.

Peter Fulton looked the best of the lot, and his 83 got him man of the match. He drove punishingly, worked the ball about efficiently. With his telescopic reach he is able to turn decent length deliveries into half volleys.

Styris, well set, went softly, slicing to short third man before Jacob Oram and Ross Taylor put some meat into the closing overs, pillaging 89 in 49 balls.

By that stage the Bangladesh bowlers were toast and Oram helped himself to extra slices, freeing his arms in belting 55 in 31 balls.

There is more chance of getting a bargain from Honest Bob's Fair Deal car emporium than there was Bangladesh chasing down the target.

But teenage opener Tamim Iqbal had a lick with a heady 43, discovering few terrors in the pitch or the bowling, which consisted of plenty of short stuff, often exaggerated by a tennis ball bounce.

However three wickets fell for five runs in the 60s, including the key man, Mohammad Ashraful.

Ashraful's controversial dismissal, driving low to cover where Taylor claimed the catch, did for Bangladesh, and deprived the crowd of another opportunity to see the little dazzler in action.

The rest of Bangladesh's innings was ho-hum, save a tidy half century from Aftab Ahmed. From their perspective, fair enough.

They haven't come this far to jack in a daunting situation in for the sake of an early finish, even if there was more entertainment watching the long crawl to the hot dog stand out behind the main stand.

Kyle Mills' four for 40 maintained a fine run of 19 wickets at 16 apiece in seven games since the South African series in November.

But Mark Gillespie's only over may have hurt his chances of being named in the first test squad on Monday - not so much the figures of 1-0-16-0 but the damage he did to his left shoulder in the process.

Michael Mason has been brought in as cover for Queenstown.

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