It is not going to be easy on two counts. One that Bangladesh have never beaten New Zealand in a Test ever. In 13 previous attempts, they have lost 10 Tests - five of them by an innings - while three have ended in a stalemate, all of them at home. Two, Bangladesh will at least for the first Test be without their regular captain and star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, sidelined with a broken finger, and Mushfiqur Rahim who has been down with ribcage and finger injuries.
That leaves Mahmudullah and Tamim Iqbal to do bulk of the work and if either one fails, it is going to get doubly difficult for the visitors especially with the rest of the batting unit lacking experience.
As was seen in the recently-concluded One-Day International series which they lost 3-0, it will be a steep climb for Bangladesh. Whenever the ball has moved the Asian side has had a tough time countering it. 24 out of the 30 wickets in the ODI series were taken by the pacers this despite the white ball not swinging as much. With the red ball, the likes of Boult and Southee are going to pose an even sterner challenge and that is something Bangladesh will have to be wary of.
Steve Rhodes, the head coach, also admitted that the big challenge would be to adjusting to the moving ball. "The batsmen have been working on these areas for the last six months, not just for this series, but we do realise that if we want to play well away from home, we need to cope with the ball that bounces and moves," he said.
Tamim's form is also something that will have Bangladesh worried. The charismatic left-hander had one of his worst ODI series' recently where he could only manage 10 runs in three outings. Without the cream of the batsmen available, the visitors will desperately hope for Tamim to get back into form.
Having said that, Bangladesh have been on an upward curve in recent times in the longest format of the game. The perennial underdogs, they have enjoyed home Test wins against England and Australia and will now be keen on taking the success overseas as well.
They gave a good account of themselves in the two-day practice match ahead of the Test series against a New Zealand XI in Lincoln, finishing day one on 411/6 with Liton Das (62), Soumya Sarkar (41), Mahmudullah (59) and Mehedi Hasan Miraz (51) all retiring not out. The last time Bangladesh were in New Zealand they had posted 595/8 Wellington before eventually collapsing for a seven-wicket loss.
It is instances like these that will give Bangladesh confidence and Mahmudullah, captain for the first Test, admitted that even though "conditions would be tough" for the visitors, given the right attitude they were capable of toppling any side in the world.
Tamim, Sarkar, Liton, Mahmudullah and Mominul Haque are likely to form the crux of Bangladesh's batting unit while Mustafizur Rahman will lead the bowling department along with Abu Jayed and spinners Taijul Islam and Mehedi. Fast bowler Ebadot Hossain on his first tour might also be handed a debut.
For New Zealand, on the other hand, there are fewer worries. They are ranked No.2 in the world and have been enjoying an excellent run across all formats. They defeated Pakistan in Dubai in a three-match Test series late last year before brushing aside Sri Lanka in a two-Test series to cap off an excellent 2018.
The unit clicked well in the preceding ODI series as well and anything short of a 3-0 win in the Test series is likely to disappoint Kane Williamson. New Zealand have named their starting eleven for the first Test at Seddon Park. There is just one change to the side that routed Sri Lanka by 423 runs in the Boxing Day test in Christchurch with off-spinner Todd Astle replacing Ajaz Patel.
Astle has been in good nick since recovering from a finger injury and will be keen on proving his worth after being given the nod ahead of the likes of Patel, Ish Sodhi and William Somerville.
While the contest between the No.2 ranked New Zealand and No.9 ranked Bangladesh seems to be a mismatch Williamson was adamant that "every team in international cricket is a threat". Citing Sri Lanka's example when they recently handed a shock defeat to South Africa on their soil, Williamson said that there would be no way New Zealand would take Bangladesh lightly.
"There have been some upsets for some very strong teams," Williamson said. "They're all very, very talented. We saw Sri Lanka over in South Africa, which was a fantastic effort. It's hard to beat a side like South Africa anywhere – let alone in their backyard. [It shows] anybody can beat anybody."
The track at Seddon Park though is bound to get New Zealand's hopes high. The surface had a greenish tinge which looked ripe for swing bowling. It is also a venue that New Zealand have not lost a Test since 2012 and they will not be keen on changing that record anytime soon.
New Zealand (XI): Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (capt), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Todd Astle, Trent Boult
Bangladesh: Mahmudullah (capt), Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Mominul Haque, Mohammad Mithun, Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Taijul Islam, Abu Jayed, Shadman Islam, SK Ahmed, Nayeem Hasan, Ebadot Hossain, Soumya Sarkar, Mustafizur Rahman
First Published: February 27, 2019, 12:30 PM IST