The wicket and the pace bowlers are the key focuses in the second Test in Bloemfontein against Bangladesh, starting Friday.
It’s all about the wicket. Proteas captain Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson were rather taken aback when they saw the wicket on offer at the first Test in Potchefstroom, while the Bangladeshis felt it was a home way from home. It took a lot of persistence and patience to break the visitors down, but captain and coach felt that their strength had been diluted. So they demanded a wicket that will help the pacemen, and all reports suggest they have finally got it.
The bowling attack
With the presentation of a paceman’s wicket it is now up to the bowling attack to use it properly and not waste it. As such, the focus will be on what we shall refer to as the second tier of bowlers. With the loss of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Chris Morris and Morne Morkel, Duanne Olivier and Wayne Parnell will step into the breach in an attack led by Kagiso Rabada, with support from Andile Phehlukwayo. Du Plessis suggested earlier in the week that Dane Paterson was summoned as back-up, and it is unlikely he will play. Olivier was a bit on the loose side in the first Test, more enamoured of pace than accuracy. He bowled only 11 overs in the first innings, taking 1-52 at 4.72. Parnell has just come back from a shoulder injury, sustained while becoming the Barbados Tridents’ highest wicket-taker (11) in the Caribbean Premier League. Both will need to play a full and responsible role in support of Rabada to justify their status.
The Proteas strength was sapped by the mortuary slab of a wicket at Senwes Park, and it will be interesting to see how the Bangladeshis fare against pace. They have also been weakened by the loss of Tamim Iqbal, who although not scoring well in Potchefstroom due to an injury, was one of their go-to men. They still have some patient and efficient batsmen in Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudulla and Mominul Haque, but their mettle will be tested outside their comfort zone. The Proteas, too, may like to tighten up on their execution and take the catches on offer. That will go a long way to delivering the coup de grace.
Bloemfontein has not had a Test match since 2008, when the Proteas beat Bangladesh there by an innings. (Amla got a hundred in that match and may well fancy his chances of back-to-back tons this time around). There has been a fair bit of rain around, with the covers staying on throughout Monday. More showers are predicted, which means the strip may not see much sunlight. The forecast is for clear, cool weather with a bit of breeze. Olivier, who plays his franchise cricket at the Manguang Oval, believes that day one may be a bit slow, but that it will then quicken up as the match goes on. It will be a departure from the normal nature of this strip, which has traditionally favoured batsmen.
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