When Bangladesh's fast bowlers posed their biggest challenge in Wellington, for about an hour on the fourth morning, New Zealand fought and scrapped and eventually began to dominate. As Ross Taylor put it at the end of the day's play, it was an effort to "earn the right to dictate terms in the last session". New Zealand, having established a 221-run first-innings lead, took three wickets in that period, putting themselves on the road to an eventual innings-and-12-run win, which they completed on the fifth morning.
With that, they wrapped up their fifth consecutive series win, an unprecedented feat in their Test history. They have now made winning Test matches a habit, often after coming through trying situations. Here in Wellington, they faced a side struggling against the short ball and carrying a weak pace attack, but they had to find a way to squeeze out a win in limited time after losing two full days to rain.
At the same venue and against the same opponents two years ago, New Zealand battled back from conceding 595 for 8 to win the Test in the last session. In Christchurch last year, they had to rely on their lower order to get the draw against England and ensure a 1-0 series win. Then they beat Pakistan by four runs in Abu Dhabi, lost the next Test, and bounced back in the third to seal a historic away series win.
Then, when Sri Lanka reduced them to 64 for 6 on the first day in Christchurch in December, New Zealand had to scrap once again, Tim Southee their unlikely saviour with the bat as they recovered to post 178. They later hit back through Trent Boult, Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls, and eventually beat the visitors by 423 runs.
New Zealand channeled all those hard-fought wins into their play on the fourth day of this Test. Taylor battled through Abu Jayed's blustery new-ball spell, and rode his luck after being dropped twice in the same over and being beaten numerous times. Still, he counter-attacked on his way to a third double-hundred in Tests. It was even harder, at least physically, for Kane Williamson, who batted through a shoulder injury. His struggle was visible whenever he took his left hand off his handle, wincing at the impact of ball on bat.
"I was trying to talk him through it," Taylor said. "He was in a lot of pain, a lot of discomfort, and it showed just what a classy knock that was, not to be 100% and still go out and get 70-odd."
Taylor said keeping the run rate up was New Zealand's way of grabbing control of the game,
"[Given] the game situation, being a three-day Test, we had to be a bit more proactive and score quickly and try first of all to get a lead and try to build it up as quick as possible to give our bowlers a bit of a chance. I think the way Henry Nicholls [batted] and the partnership with Kane was outstanding," he explained.
Even when Bangladesh put up a bit of resistance on the fifth morning, New Zealand's pace attack found a way to break through. Neil Wagner finished with his second five-wicket haul in as many games while Boult took four wickets.
These mini fightbacks have come from every department. While the batsmen and bowlers have been in excellent collective form for a long time now, New Zealand's catching and fielding, and their overall preparation, give them an edge over many other Test teams. An excellent seam attack and a wide pool of spinners (Mitchell Santner now has competition from Ish Sodhi, Todd Astle, Ajaz Patel and William Somerville) gives them a range of resources to deploy in different conditions.
With much of world cricket focused on the World Cup, New Zealand can also rest assured that they have put in place the building blocks for the World Test Championship when it comes around later this year. They are the No. 2 Test team in the world at the moment, and they will only grow stronger with every fightback, and every time they find a new match-winner.