History and the form of South Africa’s leading batsmen are against Bangladesh in the first Test starting Thursday at Senwes Park in northwestern university town Potchefstroom.
Bangladesh have lost all four previous Tests in South Africa by an innings, despite winning the toss on all four occasions.
In their favour, though, is improved form since their previous tour in 2008/09 and a Potchefstroom pitch less likely to help South Africa’s formidable fast bowlers than other surfaces in the host country.
Although it has generally favoured batsmen, there was surprising assistance for slow bowlers in a Twenty20 tournament earlier this month, a repeat of which would suit Bangladesh’s spin-strong attack.
Even so, the odds seemed loaded in South Africa’s favour.
Bangladesh did not suggest themselves as world-beaters in a low-key draw against a largely inexperienced Invitation team in Benoni near Johannesburg last week, while South Africa’s top batsmen were feasting in four-day franchise matches.
Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn and new cap Aiden Markram all scored centuries, captain Faf du Plessis made 96 and Quinton de Kock hit a half-century.
Temba Bavuma was the exception, making 25 and 0.
South Africa’s Test stars were playing domestic first-class cricket at the insistence of new head coach, former West Indies player Ottis Gibson, some for the first time in several seasons.
The form of the batsmen was encouraging after they struggled in a low-scoring series defeat in England this year.
South Africa’s frontline bowlers were less successful, however.
Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada failed to take a wicket in 38 overs, Duanne Olivier took three in the first innings and none in 31 overs in the second innings and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj took just one wicket in 39 overs.
Only Morne Morkel enjoyed some success, taking five wickets across two innings.
In the absence of leading all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who was granted a break from Test cricket, Bangladesh will look to their two most experienced remaining players, captain Mushfiqur Rahim and opener Tamim Iqbal, to provide substance to their batting.
Tamim played a minimal role in the warm-up match because of a thigh muscle strain but has been passed fit for Potchefstroom.
Shakib has also been a mainstay of Bangladesh’s bowling attack, which looks short of experience without him.
Only slow left-armer Taijul Islam, with 54, has taken more than 50 Test wickets.
Two young bowlers, left-arm fast bowler Mustafizur Rahman, 22, and off-spinner Mehidy Hasan, 19, are likely to be key figures for the tourists.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Theunis de Bruyn, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Duanne Olivier, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo
Coach: Ottis Gibson (WIS)
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (capt/wkt), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Sabbir Rahman, Mahmudullah, Mominul Haque, Liton Das (wkt), Mehidy Hasan, Taijul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Taskin Ahmed, Subashis Roy
Coach: Chandika Hathurusingha (SRI)
Umpires: Chris Gaffaney (NZL), Bruce Oxenford (AUS)
TV umpire: Kumar Dharmasena (SRI)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)
Story first published: 27th September 2017