This series is unlikely to be archived among the most compelling of our times but it is an important one. It pits a traditionally strong side that has been going through years of transition against an emerging one that has been steadily building over the same period. Unfortunately, the Potchefstroom Test only reinforced what we already suspect about what a contest between these two sides can provide.
In Test terms, there is still a massive gap between South Africa and Bangladesh, even with most of South Africa’s first-choice attack injured. In South African conditions, even those that are less South African than usual, that gap is only widened. Perhaps the only new thing we learnt is that Bangladesh have a good chance of transferring their home improvements abroad but they need to back themselves a little more.
Bangladesh showed the best and worst of their batting in Potchefstroom. After achieving their highest total in South Africa, 320, which was only six short of their highest against South Africa anywhere, they were bundled out in the second innings for their lowest against South Africa. Their score of 90 was also the first time they have been dismissed for under 100 in a decade. If anything, they will want to set that right even though the Bloemfontein pitch is set to be more challenging.
South Africa should not really want it easier but they do want groundsmen around the country to buy into the idea that when teams from the subcontinent tour, they must be presented with pace and bounce. Even though that will also ask questions of the home line-up, which has battled for consistency in the last year, it is now becoming more about the attack.
Kagiso Rabada, who will play his 22nd Test, is the most experienced bowler in the squad, with Wayne Parnell and Duanne Olivier only in possession of nine caps between them. Andile Phehlukwayo has played one Test and Dane Paterson, if he plays, will be on debut. As much as South Africa want to show dominance, this series is also about finding a second wave of bowlers to replace the previous pack. Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel may all be back at some stage but their injury rate means South Africa need to start looking at other options and this series is the start of that search.
South Africa: WLLWL (most recent first)
Bangladesh: : LLWWL
In the Spotlight
On his home ground, Duanne Olivier should be comfortable enough to show what took him to the top of the first-class wicket charts last summer. Olivier took 52 wickets at 18.13 in the 2016-17 season and made his name on his ability to bowl long spells and show the same aggression mid-innings as he did at the start. He hasn’t quite had the chance to do that internationally yet but without Morne Morkel in the team, this could be Olivier’s Test to step up.
Mominul Haque‘s 77 was the highest score by a Bangladesh batsmen in Potchefstroom, and of all of them he looked the most likely to become the first among his countrymen to score a century in this country. With a calm temperament, confidence against the short ball and his captain Mushfiqur Rahim to help him in the middle order, Mominul may be the difference between Bangladesh competing and collapsing.
With Morne Morkel out injured, South Africa will need to bolster the attack with one of Wayne Parnell, who last played a Test in January this year, or rookie Dane Paterson. Though local lad Theunis de Bruyn scored 195 in a first-class match two weeks ago, the balance of the side means it’s unlikely he will be included.
South Africa (probable): 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Temba Bavuma, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt), 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Wayne Parnell/Dane Paterson, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Duanne Olivier
Tamim Iqbal’s unavailability has opened the door for Soumya Sarkar to return to the top of the order while Subashis Roy may replace Taskin Ahmed in the pace attack.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Imrul Kayes, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), 6 Sabbir Rahman, 7 Liton Das (wk), 8 Mehidy Hasan, 9 Shafiul Islam, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Subashis Roy
Pitch and conditions
Traditionally the Bloemfontein surface is flat but South Africa have made it clear to groundstaff around the country that they want some life in the pitches they play subcontinental sides on. Green grass was spotted on the strip earlier in the week and it has been under covers from the rain since, so there might be more in it than usual. The weather for the match is set to clear, though day two may be affected by showers.
Stats and trivia
This is the fifth Test to be played at Manguang Oval. South Africa have won all the previous four, including the most recent one against Bangladesh in 2008.
No Bangladesh batsmen has scored a century in South Africa but there is powerful motivation for at least two of them to change that, Mahmudullah is 116 runs away from 2,000 Test runs while Mominul Haque is 175 away.
Keshav Maharaj took his 50th Test wicket in Potchefstroom, in his 12th Test. Among South African spinners, he is the fastest to reach the landmark since readmission.
Dean Elgar needs 16 runs to complete 1,000 Test runs in 2017. He would be the first South African to score that many in a calendar year since Hashim Amla in 2012.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo