Although Bangladesh have been poor, South Africa were ruthless in the second Test, writes GARY LEMKE.
Cricket is a game of statistics, and those statistics based on Bangladesh’s previous trips to South Africa, suggested the second Test in Bloemfontein would be all over on the third day, with the visitors being bowled out for 180. They managed 172.
Bangladesh have been out-matched, bullied, and fragile opponents on two of the friendliest batting surfaces to be found in South Africa, and while the Proteas have been hugely impressive – more so in the current Test than in the opening one in Potchefstroom – the two countries look divisions apart.
And for all the hype about Bangladesh having proven themselves among the Test-playing countries, a quick look at how they have performed in South Africa in the past 15 years suggests not a lot has changed. On home soil and on the sub-continent, yes, Bangladesh are able to compete manfully in the Test arena.
But against quality opponents away from home, they still look like rabbits trapped in the headlights. Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein have simply been an extension of what we have seen before in 2002 and 2008.
Over the years South Africa average 80 runs for each wicket to fall, while each Bangladeshi wicket drops every 18 runs. This is the sixth Test to be played between the two countries in South Africa, and all previous five have been huge winning margins to the hosts. Bloemfontein will be no different.
Yet, credit should be given where it’s due, despite some rank amateurish play and decision-making by the Bangladeshis so far in Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein. To win the toss and insert the Proteas on both occasions, and then see the opposition get to 441 and 529 for 4 declared, respectively, on both occasions is simply getting things ridiculously wrong.
It’s as if Bangladesh have been afraid to bat first against a South African bowling line-up that is good, but most certainly not at 100 percent full strength. This Test match in Bloemfontein has been nothing more than a public middle net for the Proteas, one in which all the batsmen have nudged their batting averages up and where the bowlers have run amok.
Kagiso Rabada has stepped up very quickly to the role of senior bowler in this Proteas squad, especially given that Morne Morkel was ruled out of the second Test, and his 5-33 was yet another example of why he is the most exciting fast bowling talent on Planet Cricket.
Sure, the tactics against limited Bangladeshi batsmen are simple, and predictable. Even at the relatively fast-medium pace of 135km/h a well-directed short-pitched delivery will have this opposition thinking they’re facing the full might of the legendary West Indies fast bowlers on a green top. They simply aren’t equipped for chin music, and South Africa used the shorter-pitched delivery to run through the first innings.
To see an opening batsman – Soumya Sarkar – bowled behind his legs by Rabada, which started the rot for Bangladesh with their score on 13, in reply to South Africa’s 573-4 declared, only showed the porous nature of the visitors’ defence. Sure, the impressive South African quickie had thrown in a few shorter deliveries, and then pitched one fuller … but for the left-hander Sarkar to be bowled behind his legs?
As is the case with this Bangladesh Test side, one wicket brings two, and more. It’s been the case in each of the six Tests they’ve played in this country.
Since 2002 Bangladesh’s Test innings have displayed 90, 107, 131, 147, 153, 159, 170, 215, 250, 252 and 320.
South Africa’s have consisted of 247, 429, 441, 482, 496, 529 and 573.
It’s been men against boys over the past 15 years, and not much has changed in the five-day format of the game. That’s not to say that South Africa haven’t been impressive. They have – and it’s been a ruthlessness, especially in Bloemfontein, where the ball has come on to the bat quicker than it did in Potchfestroom – that has been pleasing.
Captain Faf du Plessis, one of four Proteas centurions in the first innings, reckoned that in the win in Potchefstroom the Proteas had played almost perfect cricket. He will revise that statement, because in Bloemfontein they have been much better.
Aiden Markram looks as though he belongs in Test cricket. Dean Elgar has tightened his technique. Temba Bavuma’s spot at No 4 will come into question when AB de Villiers returns, but his fielding is electric. Rabada is improving daily. Quinton de Kock’s wicketkeeping, both to the quicker bowlers and the ever-impressive spin of Keshav Maharaj, continues on the upgrade.
And the list of positives goes on.
South Africa, weather permitting, should wrap up this Test and the series on Sunday. And ahead of the more serious assignments that lay ahead against India and Australia, that’s worth celebrating.
Photo: Lee Warren/Getty Images