Had this been the start of a brave new dawn for Test cricket, the South African and Bangladesh players could have shaken hands and booked a round of Sunday golf, writes GARY LEMKE.
Thankfully, four-day Tests are not upon us just yet, so there is still a chance of South Africa pushing for victory, with two days remaining in the match.
Cricket bosses around the world are campaigning for Tests to be reduced from five days to four to accommodate the bulging T20 schedules – indeed, South Africa play Zimbabwe in one from Boxing Day – but a flat Senwes Park pitch shows the folly of that money-driven plan.
Going into the fourth day, the Proteas have a lead of 230 runs and there remains every possibility of them playing aggressively and going on to win the match on Monday. In batting first, the Proteas occupied five sessions to score 496-3 declared, Bangladesh took three sessions to reply with 320 and South Africa posted 53-2 in a curtailed afternoon session.
Scoring quickly on a slow pitch is not as easy as it looks from the armchair, but still South Africa will look to get close to a lead of 400 before having a second bowl at Bangladesh. Despite the meritorious nature of their innings where they avoided the follow-on, the lower half of their order fell away, and my feeling is that they won’t be able to bat four sessions on this pitch.
So, the game plan from South Africa should be to bat as quickly as they can, around four runs to the over, and if they can do that, then declare before tea on Sunday with that lead around 400, and give themselves a few overs pre-tea, with another four sessions to chase for the win.
Keshav Maharaj, who helped mop up the tail, will be the go-to man in the final innings, although in bowling out Bangladesh for 320, it has to be said that Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada performed manfully,
Both men look to be at peak fitness, and ran in hard, banging the ball into a flat pitch, and both were rewarded for their hard work with two wickets. Rabada sent down 24 first-innings overs, while Morkel contributed 19. Only Maharaj, with 27, sent down more, understandably, given that he’s a left-arm spinner on a docile deck.
Interestingly for this observer was the fact that when the Proteas were in the field on Saturday, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla stood at slip to the quicker bowlers, while Amla occupied the sole slip position when Maharaj bowled, and picked up the wicket of Shafiul Islam with a sharp low catch to his left.
On the second day, Dean Elgar dropped two catches off Maharaj at slip, and at close of play told the media that he was comfortable fielding there, and that Amla ‘didn’t want to field at slip’.
Clearly, there must have been discussions behind closed doors that saw the plan revised overnight.
Despite there being no demons in the pitch, it’s worth noting that on the first day one wicket fell. On the second day five wickets fell, and on the third day nine wickets fell.
That in itself tells a story. The pitch is still full of runs, but batsmen are getting out and that increases the likelihood of South Africa winning this Test before heading off to Bloemfontein.
One would like to see Temba Bavuma come out of his shell more with the bat, and below him Du Plessis and Quinton de Kock must look to score quickly to accelerate the scoreboard in the push for victory.
Bat Bangladesh out of the game and then leave just over four sessions to take the 10 wickets. That should be the plan – although there wouldn’t be any talk of a result other than a draw if various cricket boards get their way and reduce Test matches from five days to four.
Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP Photo