South Africa will be seeking to reverse a losing trend at Kingsmead when they play against Bangladesh in the first Test of a two-match series starting on Thursday.
Once known as a fast-bowler’s paradise, Kingsmead has become a venue where South Africa’s traditional strength in pace bowling has been negated in recent years.
The Proteas have lost six of their most recent eight Tests in Durban, going back to 2009-10, with a solitary win over India in 2012-13 and a rain-ruined draw with New Zealand in a rare winter game in 2016.
Proteas captain Dean Elgar admitted on Monday that he was less than delighted that the Tests are being played in Durban and Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth, another city where South Africa have struggled.
“I’ve got no say over scheduling and venues,” he said. “Hopefully in the future that can change.”
But he was encouraged by a good covering of grass on the pitch and hoped that much of it remained after the surface is mown before the match.
“I’m not too familiar with what they have done but it seems like the grass has grown a little bit here at Kingsmead,” said Elgar. “Hopefully they can get it nice and hard to create more pace and bounce.”
If Elgar’s hopes are fulfilled it could be more like the Kingsmead of old, where Allan Donald, now Bangladesh’s fast-bowling coach, had match figures of 9-54 when India were blown away for 100 and 66 in 1996-97.
Even if the pitch does aid pace, Elgar will have to do without frontline fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen, as well as the injured Anrich Nortje.
Duanne Olivier, who appears to have lost pace since returning from a Kolpak contract in England, Lutho Sipamla and Glenton Stuurman are the only fast bowlers with Test experience in the current squad. They have 13, three and one Test caps, respectively.
Elgar said South Africa were considering several bowling combinations, including the possibility of fielding two spinners. This would mean off-spinner Simon Harmer returning to Test cricket after a six-year gap to join left-armer Keshav Maharaj.
Bangladesh have lost all six Tests over three previous tours of South Africa, including five by an innings, but broke an all-format losing streak in the country with a convincing win in an ODI series at the start of the tour.
Tamim Iqbal, who led the ODI side, hands over the captaincy to Mominul Haque but will be a key player for the tourists as an opening batsman.
There will have to be at least four changes from the ODI team with Mahmudullah, Afif Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman not part of the Test squad, while all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan is not expected to be back in time for the first Test after returning home to visit ill family members.
Bangladesh gained a shock win in the first Test over Test world champions New Zealand in January to show they can win away from home against good opposition.
Fast bowler Ebadot Hossain was the Man of the Match and he will be backed up in Durban by Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam, who were both impressive in the one-day games against South Africa.
Bangladesh were unable to follow up their success in New Zealand, however. The Black Caps hit back with an innings win in the second Test and, even though it is a below-strength South African team, Bangladesh will probably have to be at their best to beat them.
South Africa: Dean Elgar (c), Temba Bavuma, Daryn Dupavillon, Sarel Erwee, Simon Harmer, Keshav Maharaj, Wiaan Mulder, Duanne Olivier, Keegan Petersen, Ryan Rickelton, Lutho Sipamla, Glenton Stuurman, Kyle Verreynne (wk), Lizaad Williams, Khaya Zondo
Bangladesh: Mominul Haque (c), Abu Jayed, Ebadot Hossain, Khaled Ahmed, Litton Das (wk), Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Mehidy Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Nurul Hasan, Shadman Ismail, Shohidul Islam, Shoriful Islam, Taijul Islam, Tamim Iqbal, Taskin Ahmed, Yasir Ali
© Agence France-Presse