Cricket: Opener shows How it's done

By David Leggat

Jamie How accomplished two things at Eden Park yesterday: regained his batting confidence and thrust his hand skyward to grab back his test spot next month.

His 88 steered New Zealand to a resounding six-wicket win with 7.2 overs to spare, making 203 for four in the opening ODI against Bangladesh.

The squad for the first test against Bangladesh will be named on Sunday. He missed the two tests in South Africa a few weeks ago but despite an ordinary test record, averaging 14 in six tests, he deserves another chance.

Yesterday he drove impeccably and, as he gained in assurance, his strokeplay flourished. On other days he might have gone leg before to the second ball of the innings from Mashrafe Mortaza, missing an attempted pull, but got better as he went along.

How's innings of 90 and 76 in South Africa during the ODI series attracted attention but he lost his way in Australia, although he wasn't alone in that.

Yesterday there were good partnerships, including one of 90 with Brendon McCullum - full of rumbustious strokes until inexplicably spooning a full toss back to the bowler Farhad Reza - and 67 with Peter Fulton, who got to 35 comfortably before holing out to deep cover.

But How wasted a royal opportunity for his maiden ODI hundred, slicing left arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan high to long off.

There were some untidy moments in the New Zealand innings, and wickets were conceded softly, but the important point was that it was a win, and batsmen had a chance in more comfortable circumstances than they've enjoyed recently to feel the bat on ball.

The innings of the day, however, in terms of splashing colour all over Eden Park, came from Bangladesh's captain, Mohammad Ashraful. He shared an excellent 97-run stand for the third wicket with 18-year-old opener Tamim Iqbal which threatened to put some real heat on New Zealand's batsmen.

It took only 91 balls, and was easily a Bangladesh record against New Zealand for any wicket. The pair had the wood on New Zealand's bowlers before falling in quick order to poorly judged shots.

By the time Iqbal, having just completed his third ODI 50, sliced to third man, they had taken Bangladesh to 136 in the 27th over and were toying with the New Zealand attack. A target well in excess of 250 beckoned.

Iqbal was circumspect early but tucked in later on. But Ashraful is this team's standout performer. Short but fearless, he averages only 22 in ODIs, but clearly believes backward steps are for ballroom dancing.

There's a degree of hit or miss to his batting, but when he's on he is well worth the admission, and yesterday he arrived at the crease with his team's hopes squarely on his shoulders.

Based on what followed from the Bangladeshi middle and lower order, this is a situation with which he's not entirely unfamiliar.

In what seemed no time, he had flown to 25 off his first 12 balls. He pulled ferociously, drove with class and on a couple of occasions produced audacious flicks high to the fine leg boundary from outside offstump, shots requiring nerve and skill.

Much of his strokeplay had a dismissive quality to it. But the departures of Iqbal and Ashraful in quick succession had the effect of pulling the bathplug.

Ashraful, having completed his 12th ODI 50, was aghast to find he had swung Oram straight to deep mid wicket, his 70 having taken only 57 balls.

Five wickets fell in the space of 33 balls. And what's more, the runs dried up.

New Zealand's bowlers, largely - and worryingly - ineffective when the big stand was in progress, did stick at the job.

But Martin, Mills, Oram and Gillespie all had good patches. Patches, however, don't always win matches.

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