5 Bold Predictions for Bangladesh vs. New Zealand
It may not be the most headline-grabbing series on the international cricket calendar, but for Bangladesh and New Zealand, it represents an important period of the year.
For Bangladesh, this series is a chance to close the gap between themselves and Zimbabwe in the official ICC Test Rankings following a string of positive results for the African nation that have propelled them above their subcontinental counterparts.
Meanwhile, for New Zealand, this trip to Bangladesh is an opportunity to reclaim the feeling of victory in the Test arena after an alarmingly poor run of results over the last 12 months.
With both teams desperately needing to locate success, it's certain we'll see a hard-fought series with the New Zealanders set to be tested to a far greater degree than most would believe.
Could the home side cause an upset? Who will stamp their authority on the series?
Here are our predictions ahead of the first Test beginning on Wednesday.
Ross Taylor Will Score 350 Runs in 2 Tests
As his team's most accomplished Test batsman, Ross Taylor appears set to be the star of the series.
Although his controversial stepping down from the captaincy in 2012 continues to linger over both him and his team, Taylor's immense talent should see the 29-year-old distinguish himself in this series against Bangladesh.
The free-flowing right-hander has scored hundreds in two of his last three Tests in the subcontinent, confirming his status as his team's most skilled and versatile operator.
His 113 versus India in Bangalore last August was the first of those centuries, while the second, a 142-run effort against Sri Lanka in Colombo in November, was even more impressive in leading his team to a stunning victory.
Given that the home side in this encounter represents a significant step down from those two opponents, expect Taylor to flourish in this Test series, with the 350-run mark within in sights despite just two scheduled matches.
Shakib Al Hasan and Sohag Gazi Will Combine for 20 Wickets in the Series
Such is New Zealand's incompetence against spin, it's quite possible that we'll witness significant hauls for the Bangladeshi spinners.
In Shakib Al Hasan and Sohag Gazi, the home side has two proven performers at Test level, with their right arm-left arm combination providing a delicious blend.
The left arm orthodox of Al Hasan has been profoundly effective in Test cricket to date, with the 26-year-old owning 106 scalps at an average of 32.79, which includes nine five-wicket hauls.
His counterpart, Gazi, will offer the desired variation through his right-arm off spin, ensuring that the visitors will endure an endless barrage of spin over the course of two Tests.
New Zealand's frailties against the turning ball were uncovered by Graeme Swann at Headingley in May, when the prolific tweaker claimed 10 wickets for the match on a rather seam-friendly wicket.
If the Kiwi batsman offer such little resistance once more, then it's highly likely the two frontline Bangladeshi spinners will claim a minimum of 20 wickets between them for the series.
Trent Boult Will Lead New Zealand's Wicket Tally Despite Unfavourable Conditions
Dry, flat, lifeless pitches don't tend to inspire confidence and enthusiasm among the world's fast bowlers.
In fact, trips to the subcontinent are among the most painful for the quicker men given the nature of the conditions found in that part of the world.
However, expect to see New Zealand's Trent Boult defy the expectations and excel for the visitors.
The 24-year-old has enjoyed a successful beginning to his Test career, claiming 49 wickets at 29.12 in his first 15 matches. Although the bulk of those wickets have been taken on more lively surfaces than those found in Bangladesh, the left-armer owns the skills to run through the home side's batting order.
A bowler who likes to home in on the stumps, Boult possesses the ability to move both the new and the old ball, which means he's a consistent threat throughout an innings.
His record in the subcontinent is also impressive, with his 14 wickets at 27.35 evidence of his skills in unfavourable conditions.
With Bangladesh's batting lineup still short of genuine Test quality, Boult could be prolific in this series if he gets it right.
New Zealand Won't Pass 500 in an Innings
It seems ridiculous to suggest that a genuine Test-playing nation won't rack up at least one big total against the still-developing Bangladesh.
Yet the Kiwis simply don't look capable of doing what many expect of putting together scores of 500-plus.
Ross Taylor aside, there's very little to inspire confidence when you look at the New Zealand batting lineup.
As a unit that tends to collapse when challenged, the visitors will find themselves well out of their comfort zone in the spin-friendly conditions, while the rather lush outfield at Chittagong for the first Test will prevent an enormous flurry of boundaries.
With New Zealand's batting lineup looking as brittle as ever in their most recent Tests, as well as appearing incapable of playing the turning ball, it would appear unlikely that the visitors are capable of putting together a large total at some point in this series.
This Series Could Make or Break Brendon McCullum's Captaincy
To say that Brendon's McCullum's position as captain of New Zealand is in serious jeopardy as we speak is perhaps an overreaction.
Yet another sub-standard showing against international cricket's babies (New Zealand were hammered by Bangladesh in 2010) will certainly mount enormous pressure on the skipper.
The leadership change at the conclusion of 2012 will have no doubt left a degree of tension around the Kiwi camp, with McCullum needing to excel in the role to make it his own.
His performances with the bat in Test cricket have been disappointing in recent times, with the hard-hitting right-hander lacking a century in this format in close to three years.
That lack of heavy run scoring places a greater emphasis on his leadership in the field, and if positive results aren't forthcoming, McCullum could find his position under genuine threat at the conclusion of this tour.