New Zealand have improved as the tour has gone on, but they still face a massive challenge
Bangladesh will look to close out the T20I series on Wednesday, even though New Zealand showed that they can level it up. Mahmudullah’s men have a proud record at home, coincidentally dating back to 2010 when a 4-0 ODI series win over the Black Caps kickstarted their dominance. Still, New Zealand’s 52-run win on Sunday, which was only their second in bilateral matches in Bangladesh in the last 11 years, will be worrying.
Tom Latham’s inexperienced but spirited side found a way to keep the series and their spinners appear to be moving from strength to strength. Left-armer Ajaz Patel is leading the way and having picked up four wickets in the last game – Mahedi Hasan, Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah and Afif Hossain, an impressive collection indeed – his confidence will be sky high.
The seamers Jacob Duffy and Scott Kuggeleijn have also bowled economically, giving New Zealand’s bowling attack a variety against which Bangladesh have struggled.
Given the slow, low and sharply spinning nature of the Mirpur pitch, New Zealand have probably realised that hitting the gaps is more important than looking for boundaries. Finn Allen gave them a rollicking start on Sunday but then they slipped to 62 for 5 in the 11th over. Henry Nicholls and Tom Blundell had to consolidate at bit before hitting 33 runs in the last three overs.
Bangladesh still have a comfortable 2-1 lead in this series, though, and a host of players capable of putting in match-winning performances, whether it be their spin trio (Shakib, Mahedi, Nasum Ahmed) or their death bowling specialists (Mustafizur Rahman and Mohammad Saifuddin). They also have Shoriful Islam waiting in the wings.
The only worry is the batting mostly because they have needlessly experimented with the No. 3 position. Having Shakib there with Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmmdullah to follow and leaving the finishing duties with Mahedi, Afif and Nurul Hasan should give the XI the right balance.
(last five completed matches)
Bangladesh LWWWL New Zealand WLLWW
In the spotlight
The enigmatic Liton Das has squandered two good starts already in the series, which isn’t anything new because everyone is starting to expect it. Liton himself has said he needs to be more responsible. Will he finally live up to his potential?
Ajaz Patel started the series by bowling the second-most economical spell by a New Zealander in men’s T20Is, before his four-wicket haul secured the team their first victory on tour. Patel has used the conditions as well as the Bangladeshi spinners, if not better, and has looked threatening in almost every spell. Two more big performances, and Patel could be first in line if New Zealand are to think about adding an extra spinner to their T20 World Cup squad.
Bangladesh have batting and bowling back-up on the bench but one loss may not prompt a change.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Mohammad Naim, 2 Liton Das, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Nurul Hasan (wk), 7 Afif Hossain, 8 Mahedi Hasan, 9 Mohammad Saifuddin, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Nasum Ahmed
New Zealand probably found their best combination by ditching one of their pace bowlers for the third T20I. It helped lengthen their batting order, which certainly helps in difficult conditions. Scott Kuggeleijn walked off without bowling the last over of the match, although New Zealand didn’t confirm if he has any illness or injury concerns.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Rachin Ravindra, 2 Finn Allen, 3 Will Young, 4 Tom Latham (capt & wk), 5 Colin de Grandhomme, 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Tom Blundell, 8 Cole McConchie, 9 Ajaz Patel, 10 Scott Kuggeleijn, 11 Jacob Duffy
Pitch and conditions
The only hope for batters is if the Dhaka curator Gamini Silva decides to re-use the pitch from the second game of this series, otherwise expect spin to dominate once more. Rain is in the forecast during match time.
Stats and trivia
“It is hard to score and finding boundaries are even harder (on these pitches). Naim and I provided a good start in the second game, which helped the rest of the batting line-up. If I could have done the same in the third game – be a little more sensible – it might have been easy for us. I will try to play a bigger innings at my next opportunity.” Bangladesh opener Liton Das, on what he needs to do in the fourth T20I.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84