SYLHET: New Zealand captain Tim Southee said his side was outplayed by an “ever-improving” Bangladesh in the opening Test in Sylhet and refused to blame the defeat on any fatigue from their gruelling ODI World Cup campaign in India last month.

Southee was among six New Zealand players who headed into the Test barely two weeks after being part of the squad that lost to hosts India in the semi-finals of the 50-overs showpiece event.

And they failed to reproduce their sparkle from the earlier tournament, slumping to 181 all out in their second innings to fall to a 150-run loss.

Saturday’s defeat was only New Zeal­a­nd’s second in Tests against Bangl­adesh, with the first coming at home in January 2022.

Since September, New Zealand have played limited-overs matches in England and Bangladesh before arriving in India for the World Cup, but Southee was quick to credit his opponents rather than point to the schedule.

“You look at the way the Bangladesh bowlers were able to apply pressure for a long period of time. I think we did that in periods but we did not do it for long enough,” Southee said after New Zealand’s first ever Test loss in Bangladesh.

New Zealand’s batters also failed to create the partnerships they wanted to, he added. “So many things you can look back on. As a side, we are just looking to improve and hopefully learn from this and move forward.”

Kane Williamson’s gutsy hundred helped New Zealand barely eclipse Bangladesh’s first innings 310 but chasing 332 on a worn-out track, the touring side were bundled out by the spin-heavy attack of their hosts.

“We knew in this part of the world, as Test moves on, it gets harder to bat,” Southee said. “Every time you lose, it’s not ideal but I think it’s just a sign of an ever-improving Bangladesh team. I think the Bangladesh bowlers bowled well, and [were] very accurate. We were probably a little bit off in terms of our ability to build pressure for long periods of time.”

New Zealand have played 55 matches across all formats this year, mostly away, with the side last playing a home series against Sri Lanka in March and April.

This series in Bangladesh marks the beginning of a new cycle of the World Test Championship, but Southee preferred to focus on the present. “Nothing changes for us. You worry about what’s in front of you, and what’s in front of us is a Test match in Dhaka,” he said, referring to the upcoming second Test. “Our next challenge is to try and be better than what we’ve been here… as players, we look back on this and we’ll keep looking at ways to move forward.”

As for being on the road for a long time, Southee said it was not really an issue with them.

“We had a little bit of a break after World Cup,” the seamer said. “As professional player, you know it’s a busy schedule…It’s been a long time on the road for some, but that’s part and parcel of being an international cricketer. You know what’s in front of you. You’re trying to freshen up as well as you can. The guys were in good spirits before this.”

He defended his side’s team selection, which saw Kyle Jamieson preferred ahead of Neil Wagner, with Ish Sodhi and Ajaz Patel forming the spin attack.

“You look at the conditions, and you look at the squad you’ve got, and you pick your best 11,” he said. “You look at the bowling group and KJ (Jamieson) has been a phenomenal performer for us, Ish Sodhi was the man of the series in the last series that he played, and AJ [Patel] has been a great bowler for us.”

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2023

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