New Zealand look to enter semis unbeaten 

Kolkata, March 25 (IANS) New Zealand, who have already booked their spot in the World Twenty20 semis, will look to qualify from Group 2 unbeaten when they take on Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens here on Friday.

The Black Caps have won all their three matches so far and would want to continue the winning streak before entering the last four stage.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, are at the bottom of the five-team group with no wins in three outings and would ideally want to bow out of the competition with their heads held high.

New Zealand started their campaign against India on a turning pitch at Nagpur. The ball spun square and the spinners were able to cast a spell on the Indian batsmen. Chasing a target of 127, the hosts were bowled out by the Kiwis for a paltry 79, diminishing the favourites tag of India.

In their next game at Dharamshala, New Zealand defended a modest total of 142 against heavyweights Australia. They bagged the game with eight runs to spare in a thrilling encounter between the Trans-Tasman rivals.

Martin Guptil then clubbed a 48-ball 80 versus Pakistan to help the team post 180/5. Pakistan managed to put up an early fight but fell 22 runs short.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh were badly bruised by Pakistan in their tournament opener as they lost the contest by 55 runs. They scared Australia but the 50-over World Champions crossed the line with three wickets in hand.

The ‘Tigers’ almost made it past India but a last-ball run-out meant the hosts clinched the match by one run in what turned out to be a heart-stopping thriller.

Going into this encounter Bangladesh will be a broken side having suffered such a painful loss and their captain Mashrafe Mortaza thinks the same.

“It is very difficult losing a match like this and to take something back from here to another match. But being a professional player, you have to take it,” Mortaza said in Bengaluru after their defeat to India.

The Eden track in the last game assisted the spinners and the Kiwi tweakers will be raring to have a go on the strip. It will be interesting to see how the Bangladesh batsmen cope with the turn and bounce.

If Bangladesh are to get close to a decent total or chase down a score, they have to make sure their top-order fires. Though Tamim Iqbal has been amongst the runs, Soumya Sarkar’s form will be a worry.

After the suspension of pacer Taskin Ahmed, the Bangladeshi bowling has also been wobbly. Except for Mustafizur Rahman, nobody else has stepped up as yet. Mortaza has tried hard but with his medium pace, he has been easy runs for rival batsmen.

It will be interesting to see if New Zealand go in with three spinners. In Nagpur they did and had India tangled in a web of spin. If they do so, one might get to see Nathan McCullum getting a game.

The Kiwi willowers have also been in form with Guptill leading the pack and they can be a force to reckon with if they are on song.

Bangladesh have never beaten New Zealand in T20Is but at Eden Gardens, in front of a strong support, they might just be able to turn the tables and cause an upset.

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