Back with home comforts, the Proteas have the chance to redeem themselves in the first Test against Bangladesh.
Let’s hope that the good people of Potchefstroom take advantage of the rare opportunity of seeing the Proteas and come out in support of the team. They could do with a little bit of love after their draining series in England, where they lost the series in all three formats, and crashed out in the Champions Trophy. To that end, a series against Bangladesh is the ideal platform to ease back into winning ways and give new coach Ottis Gibson an idea of what he is working with.
It is taking a liberty to suggest that the Proteas should win this match easily, for the Bangladeshis have sprung some surprises recently (they have beaten England, Australia and Sri Lanka in the past year), but their big moments have all come at home (bar a match in Sri Lanka). More important than winning is the way the Proteas go about it. If it is precise, clinical and efficient, Gibson will have a foundation upon which to build.
Senwes Park has been home to one Test before, back in 2002, also against Bangladesh. Then the Proteas won by an innings and 160 runs after bowling the visitors out for 215 and 107 either side of an innings of 485-8 declared. The Highveld Lions occasionally play there, and the Proteas Women and SA U19s are frequent visitors. Kagiso Rabada said it was good to bat on and the outfield was extremely quick. But there was still something for the bowlers, with good bounce and pace.
The team make-up
Which brings us to the bowling attack. All seam? There’s no Dale Steyn, nor Vernon Philander, so the pace comes from Rabada, Morne Morkel and Duanne Olivier, with Andile Phehlukwayo or Wayne Parnell as an all-rounder. I believe a specialist spinner is essential. Six front-line batsmen should be enough, so I reckon it’s time to throw Andile ‘Lucky’ Phehlukwayo into the mix and see what he can do at this level. He had a good spell with the bat with the Dolphins. That means Temba Bavuma, who did not score well last week, will have to go back to the Cobras to rediscover his form.
The team I would like to see is: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Theunis de Bruyn, Faf du Plessis (captain), Quinton de Kock, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, Morne Morkel.
It goes without saying that the Proteas cannot be complacent, and they need to show Gibson they have the guts for a ruthless fight.
The Bangladeshis come with renewed confidence after their victory against Australia, but are weakened. Shakib al Hassan, one of the heroes of that match, is being rested, and Tamim Iqbal, who scored 71 in the first innings and 78 in the second, has not had any preparation after being injured early in the warm-up match against a SA Invitational. Sabbir Rahman was the mainstay of the batting lower down the order, scoring 58 not out and 67, with useful displays by Mominul Haque (68), Mushfiqur Rahim (63) and Imrul Kayes (51) on a low, slow wicket in Benoni. They can expect the pace to quicken at Senwes Park.
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