Cricket: Bangladesh blunt NZ spin

By Kris Shannon

Kane Williamson could become a genuine spin option for New Zealand's test team, especially in home conditions. Photo / Getty
Kane Williamson could become a genuine spin option for New Zealand's test team, especially in home conditions. Photo / Getty

New Zealand's tour of the subcontinent has so far provided more questions than answers in the search for a long-term spin bowling option.

With Daniel Vettori's health still uncertain, there remains a spot in the test team for one of a number of candidates to snatch.

But, as exemplified during a largely fruitless third day of the opening test against Bangladesh in Chittagong, none of the aspirants has created a case for continual selection

Bruce Martin, who enjoyed success against England last summer, came into the two-test series as the No 1 choice and, in spin-friendly sub-continent conditions, 20-year-old Ish Sodhi was included to form a two-pronged attack.

But Kane Williamson was the only slow bowling option to threaten for much of the day as Bangladesh reached 380-7 at stumps, 89 runs in arrears. Mominul Haque (181) blunted the tourists' attack to notch a maiden test century, before the bowlers fought back with three wickets in the third session.

While New Zealand are currently in the early stages of a golden period in seam bowling, spin has fallen behind at the tail-end of Vettori's 15-year reign. Martin, 33, seems little more than a stop-gap, while leg-spinner Sohdi has played only 14 first-class matches and appears one for the future.

The pair has shown little in this test and, while a lifeless pitch hardly helped their cause, the hosts' slow-bowling troupe combined to pick up nine of New Zealand's 10 wickets on the opening two days.

Martin and Sodhi, on the other hand, have combined for 1-172 across four sessions. Instead, Williamson was the most impressive of the spin trio, exhibiting changes in flight and finding turn to keep the Bangladesh batsmen guessing.

After Anderson picked up his maiden wicket to earn the only breakthrough of a dour first session, Williamson struck on the first over after lunch, deceiving Shakib Al Hasan with bounce and inducing a top edge.

Anderson eventually broke a 121-run stand for the fifth wicket before Doug Bracewell and Sodhi, with his first test scalp, chimed in to give their side some hope entering day four.

Williamson's progress from a part-timer to a real option will be something to monitor as the tour progresses. If neither of New Zealand's spin options puts up his hand over the weekend or in the second test, there might be an inclination to opt for four seamers when the West Indies visit for three tests in December.

Williamson could carry the majority of the slow-bowling load on flat tracks, allowing for New Zealand's strength in seam to shine through. The strategy was adopted without success away to England in May but, without a genuine spinner forcing the issue, it could become more common.

- APNZ

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