An opening partnership of 99 by Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram set a solid platform for the Proteas at lunch on day one of the Test in Potchefstroom.
It served to emphasise the folly of Bangladesh’s bizarre decision to bowl first. That pleased Faf du Plessis, who said he would have immediately chosen to bat had he been given the choice.
That decision was indicative of some muddled thinking by the Bangladesh management. If, as captain Mushfiqur Rahman believed, there would be a bit of life in the wicket, it is surprising that he turned to spin in just the sixth over. There was no real movement either through the air or off the pitch, and there was even less assistance for the 19-year-old off-breaker Mehidy Hasan, playing in just his 10th Test match.
Markram looked assured in a testing first over delivered by Shafiul Islam, forcing him to present a solid defence, until he mistimed a pull and got his first Test bruise on his ribcage. But then he was gifted a legside delivery which he flicked through midwicket to the boundary, and magnificently drove another through the covers.
Dean Elgar responded similarly, and the dominance of the Bangladesh bowlers was suitably buried. The seamers then tried a few bouncers, none of which was remotely troublesome, and the openers showed they were not averse to a quick single.
Only once, when he tried a cut, did Markram look threatened, just avoiding a drag-on, which reminded him of the value of a straight bat. Just short of the hour, the openers reached 50, the first in 17 innings.
The stand might have been curtailed at 71 when Markram fended off a rising delivery from Taskin Ahmed to backward point, where the ball dropped just short of a diving Mustafizur Rahman. But that was that until the lunch bell rang, with Markram on 43 and Elgar on 56. He went to his ninth Test at fifty off 86 balls, a strike rate of a shade over 60.
It is the best opening stand since Stephen Cook and Elgar averaged 65, with two century partnerships, in the home series against Sri Lanka in 2016-17.
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