South Africa should have no trouble winning the two-match Test series against Bangladesh. Kobus Pretorius picks five things to look out for when the first Test starts on Tuesday.
The Proteas may have lost the ODI series, but they remain the No 1-ranked Test team in the world. They should, and must, bounce back after a mediocre tour so far.
1. The boys are back in town
These ‘boys’ refer to the bowling trio of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. The three of them add significant experience and class to the South African team and their involvement will be welcomed by the rest of the squad. It must be tempting to give Kagiso Rabada his Test debut on Tuesday, but Russell Domingo and the rest of the selectors must resist the temptation and stick to the tried and tested, for now.
2. Men vs Boys
Let’s not beat around the bush, Bangladesh are a terrible Test side. They shouldn’t have Test status and have never managed to beat South Africa in eight Tests. Records usually get broken when these two teams play, but it’s never a record the home team can be proud of. South Africa remain a highly competitive Test outfit even without AB de Villiers and they should have no trouble overpowering their opponents with ease.
3. Battle of the spinners
Like in the ODI series, spin will likely play a big role again on the pitches of Bangladesh. The Proteas have gone for two inexperienced options in Simon Harmer and Aaron Phangiso, with JP Duminy providing able back-up as a batting all-rounder. Harmer has only played one Test and Phangiso none, so Duminy will probably play a more leading role than usual. Harmer should have the inside lane ahead of Phangiso when it comes to selection, but this will be an opportunity for Duminy to establish himself as a proper Test all-rounder.
4. Stiaan vs Reeza
For a while it looked like Stiaan van Zyl was earmarked to take over from Alviro Petersen as opening partner to Dean Elgar. However, Reeza Hendricks has since emerged as strong competition for Van Zyl in this regard and it remains to be seen who the selectors will opt for in the first Test. With AB de Villiers back in South Africa for the birth of his first child, a spot in the middle order has also opened up. Since Hendricks is more of a natural opener than Van Zyl, it won’t be a surprise if he opens the batting with Elgar, while Van Zyl fills in for De Villiers at No 5. Either way, both will be under pressure to score runs since AB is definitely coming back; and if Reeza fails the selectors can always fall back on Van Zyl to move up the order in the future.
5. What about Dane Vilas?
Quinton de Kock currently doesn’t deserve to be picked for the Proteas after a poor run of form stretching back to the World Cup. He was the only recognised wicketkeeper in the ODI squad, but Vilas has been included for the Test series which means the selectors have an alternative should they decided to drop De Kock. Although this move is highly unlikely, it can make sense to give Vilas a run in one of the two Tests to see how he performs. Giving De Kock no competition for his place in the side doesn’t benefit him or the team. The youngster needs to know that he is replaceable if his form doesn’t improve soon.