Pitch report: Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium
The new pitch makes predicting the outcome all but impossible. The ground is traditionally very good to the spinners, but now, assuming the weather allows for a decent amount of play, the fast bowlers may get a bit more purchase.
<b>Established:</b> 2004<br><b>Capacity:</b> 20,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Isphani End, UCB End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Chittagong Division<br><b>Test History:</b> 10 (8 away wins, 2 draw)<br><b>Tosses:</b> 7 batted first (2 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses), 3 bowled first (2 losses, 1 win)
Also known as the Chittagong Divisional Stadium, the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium was one of the five purpose-built cricket grounds established in the run-up to the 2004 Under-19 World Cup. The ground was finally given ICC approval to stage international cricket and became the 153rd Test ground in February 2006, when Bangladesh hosted Sri Lanka.
The stadium itself is an unremarkable concrete bowl set in acres of prime agricultural land, with a three-tier pavilion providing the focal point. Visitors to the stadium are welcomed by large green fields and tall trees, which gives you the feeling that you are surrounded by a thick, green jungle.
The pitch was relaid in 2013, with the opening Test against New Zealand the first match on the new track.
<b>Last Time Out</b>
Given Bangladesh have never won a match at this venue, it's obvious that the last time they played here, in December 2011, it did not go well for them as they lost to Pakistan by an innings and 184 runs.
The Tigers were bowled out in their first innings for a paltry 135 on day one, with spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman taking thee wickets each. This was deceptive though, as the pitch was not that tough to bat on.
Pakistan made light work of the wicket, racking up a massive 594 runs in two days, declaring with five wickets down before tea on day three. Younis Kahn had racked up 200, while Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shafiq recorded centuries.
The hosts put on a slightly better performance in their second stint, but were again all out thanks to Rehman's four and two to Ajmal. They were back in the hut for 275 just after lunch on day four, with only Nazimuddin and Shakib-al-Hasan able to score more than 50.
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b>
New Zealand have only played one Test here, in 2008, and only Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum remain from that team. Both had poor performances, so this is not a venue they will be eager to revisit.
As for the Tigers, their top run-getter at this ground is skipper Mushfiqur Rahim, who tops the table with an average of 48.92 over seven Tests. Tamim Iqbal and Shakib are also high on the list, but most due to sheer number of games played.
Bowling-wise, the Kiwis' last visit saw Dan Vettori take nine wickets, but he is no longer in the side so there's nothing to write home about. Bangladesh's top bowler here is Shakib, who has taken 31 wickets in eight Tests.
New Zealand bowling coach Shane Bond: "Even though the wickets here are low and slow, I think history suggests that the quick bowlers have done well against Bangladesh. They are, no doubt, very tough in their own conditions and good players of spin bowling. So I think it's going to be hard work.
"It's going to be hot and the wickets are going to be flat, but they [New Zealand's seamers] still have to have an aggressive mindset, be willing to bowl short deliveries and pitch the ball up. So that's a pretty simple message that I'll be delivering to our seam bowlers."
New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson: "It is a tough place to bat, and something that I have to get used to. I am touring the world, playing in all different types of conditions. Bangladesh is certainly different than what we are used to."
Batsman Peter Fulton on the newly-laid wicket: "We have talked about that. We have an idea of what to expect. But we will go in with an open mind. If it is different from that, we will have to be prepared."
Fans on days one, four and five better pack an umbrella as rain is forecast for those days. The opening day may not be as affected (around 50 percent chance of rain), but the weekend looks to be rather wet. Days two and three are clear, allegedly.
The new pitch makes predicting the outcome all but impossible. The ground is traditionally very good to the spinners, with Muttiah Muralitharan and Graeme Swann joining Vettori in taking handfuls of wickets against the hosts.
But now, assuming the weather allows for a decent amount of play, the fast bowlers may get a bit more purchase. The Black Caps are certainly hoping so as they have a strong pace attack, and a batting weakness against spinners.
Teams traditionally choose to bat first when winning the toss, but if the weather is overcast then bowling first might be a good idea in terms of swing. But the outfield will be lush, making reverse swing a rarity and removing it from the arsenal.
If the weather plays out as predicted, this game will likely end in a draw, unless the bowlers from both sides do a demolition in the first three days. Given the Tigers have never won here, we'll give the possible win to the Kiwis.
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