Tigers make Proteas better

After the first day, which started with the minor debacle of Bangladesh skipper installing South Africa on a flat wicket, batsman Sabbir Rahman called the pitch a flat one repeatedly, even likening it to a Chittagong wicket. After the second day when South Africa declared their innings closed on 496 for three, fast bowler Taskin Ahmed reiterated his teammate’s statement, adding that they would look to draw if they could not win.

On the third day, they were bundled out for 320 by Protea pacers Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj on the same, flat wicket. If one were to seriously gauge the huge difference between two sides playing on the same pitch, not just ability, but attitude too has to be considered.

It’s not that South Africa’s bowlers are miles better in quality than Bangladesh’s — mere quality does not seem to be the deciding factor. Yes, they are better, but they are made even more so by the attitude of Bangladesh’s batsmen. South Africa occupied 146 overs to score 496 for three. Bangladesh scored 176 fewer runs having played 56.5 overs fewer. South Africa scored their runs at 3.37 per over, Bangladesh at 3.6. If that does not seem much of a difference, consider that Bangladesh lost 10 wickets and South Africa three.

South Africa had partnerships of 196 and 215 in their innings, which were broken by a run-out and a loose shot. Bangladesh’s partnerships of note were 67, 55, 69 and 65. Dean Elgar hit 199, Hashim Amla caressed 137, and debutant Aiden Markram scored 97. Mominul Haque top-scored with 77 and Mahmudullah Riyad managed 66. All of the aforementioned South African batsmen played the ball on merit and did not try to manufacture runs. Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim came out on the second evening and played a one-day innings of 44, which was fun while it lasted — 57 balls.

On the third morning, Mahmudllah survived a chance on 26 when he slashed hard at a Maharaj delivery and keeper Quinton de Kock dropped the edge. It was not that, after Morkel and Rabada bowled superb morning spells, South Africa’s third and fourth seamers matched that quality. While Tamim Iqbal was a touch unlucky to be caught down the leg side off a bad ball from Andile Phehlukwayo, Mominul Haque suffered a loss in concentration in nudging a Maharaj delivery straight into the palms of short leg. At least the pattern of Mominul’s innings was different from his end, because the diminutive left-hander was patient during his 150-ball knock.

Mahmudullah was restless from the start, as was Sabbir Rahman. Both were gliding balls down to third man, and soon enough, both chopped on to their stumps.

There is as big a gulf in captaincy as there is in the batting and bowling departments. Again, Mushfiqur’s captaincy makes Faf du Plessis’s look even better than it has been. Yesterday evening, he opened the bowling with off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz although Rabada, Morkel and Olivier showed that pace can still be dangerous on this wicket. Not only did he start with the spinner however, he positioned a sweeper cover and a sweeper on the leg side from the first ball. In the second over bowled by Shafiul, there was a deep square leg, deef fine leg and a deep backward point. During the entirety of Bangladesh’s innings there was rarely, if at all, more than two fielders in the deep. Even when Riyad was started off with a few boundaries through the off side, the response was to position three men side by side at short cover to create doubt, not just to stop the runs. But on that front, maybe the bnatsmen made Du Plessis’s tactics look better as well.

The day ended with South Africa 230 ahead with eight wickets in the bank. Neither Bangladesh’s attitude nor their ability, as displayed in this Test, warrant anything better.

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