The batsmen did their job on a flat Senwes Park pitch and now it’s up to the bowlers to turn the screws on day three of the first Test in Potchefstroom, writes GARY LEMKE.
South Africa batted out five sessions to reach their 496 for 3 declared – strangely, the session before they declared at tea being their quietest – before the visitors actually scored quicker in their turn at the crease to reach 127 runs in their 34 overs. Most importantly though, there are three batsmen back in the pavilion.
Bangladesh still have 169 more runs to find if they are to avoid the follow-on, which will be considered something of a minor victory, as they lost both their last two Tests in South Africa, albeit in 2008/09, by an innings. And should they manage to get to 296 here, the chances of a draw will surely increase.
For now though, it remains advantage South Africa.
It could have been so much better already, had Dean Elgar not dropped Mushfiqur Rahim twice at slip off Keshav Maharaj. Rahim was on six and 20 both times that the left-arm spinner found the edge, and both times Elgar spilled the chance, neither of them particularly difficult at this level.
Rahim went on to make 44 before Maharaj got his man, this time the ball drifting in and taking the bat-pad route to Aiden Markram under the helmet at short leg for the second catch of what already looks like being a fruitful Test career.
In the context of a game where wickets have been like gold nuggets – all three of the Proteas dismissals were the result of pilot error, rather than fine bowling – those two drops were expensive.
It’s puzzling that Elgar was fielding as the only slip to the dangerous Maharaj in the first instance. He’d put down a couple in the wider slip cordon to the quicker bowlers on the recent England tour, and doesn’t look as comfortable in that area as Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis.
South Africa have been blessed with fine slip fielders over the years – Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis were among those who had buckets for hands – and to see Elgar put down catches in that region is something we’re not used to seeing.
There are those who might suggest that after amassing a fine 199 with the bat he was fatigued and his concentration levels may have dipped, understandably, but then he should not have been put in at slip.
The player himself told reporters at the close of play that he was at slip because Amla didn’t want to field there and he quite rightly reckoned that ‘blunders happen … it doesn’t make you a crap cricketer’. Indeed it doesn’t, but the media and public are entitled to question why he found himself there.
On a pitch where Markram was run out, Amla slapped a loose ball to point and Elgar pulled poorly when on 199, falling one run short of a milestone 200. It was always going to take an inspired piece of bowling to actually ‘get out’ a batsman.
Step forward Kagiso Rabada.
He produced a couple of sensational deliveries on the tour to England, the yorker to knock over Ben Stokes being particularly memorable, and here he again used the element of surprise to get rid of Imrul Kayes.
Rabada had settled into a rhythm in mid to high 130km/h deliveries, and while both he and Morkel had shown intent to use the hard red ball early on to bowl a few short-pitched deliveries, it was the surprise that proved Kayes’ undoing. Rabada put in a quicker short one, timed at 143km/h, and its accuracy was too much for Kayes, who could only glove it to Markram.
It showed again that the 22-year-old is a true thinking bowler, and it produced the 88th wicket of his Test career. Working with new coach Ottis Gibson is surely going to see him kick on even more.
Maharaj is going to be given the lion’s share of the workload on day three – he’s already sent down 11 of the 34 overs – but he will get help from those around him, Morkel, Rabada, Duanne Olivier and Andile Phehlukwayo.
South Africa’s mindset will have to require patience as they only have 168 more runs to play with, but they will also have to believe that one wicket can bring two as they methodically try to work their way through the Bangladeshi batting order.
For the sake of the match as a spectacle, we all hope they manage to do just that.
Photo: Gianlugi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images