Tamim Iqbal's fitness a worry for Bangladesh as South Africa look to get moving

Big Picture

There was a time when South Africa would have taken two points from a World Cup game against Bangladesh as a given. Those days are long gone. The South Africans’ famous slip-up against Bangladesh in Guyana during the 2007 tournament helped change the perception about the Asian side, and though revenge was sought – and found – at the 2011 edition, Bangladesh have continued to progress in the interim, overcoming their short-ball shortcomings to beat South Africa 2-1 at home four years ago.

There was also a time when the accepted line was that Bangladesh were a shadow of their best selves away from home, but in the four years since the 2015 World Cup, they have started to buck this trend too. In that time, they have won 13 matches away from home to improve their record abroad, beating New Zealand twice and cruising to an ODI series win over West Indies.

Importantly, some of Bangladesh’s younger players are also starting to do well when they travel, and during the Ireland tri-series in May, 26-year-old Soumya Sarkar struck three fifties in a row against West Indies. Mohammad Saifuddin and Mehidy Hasan were impressive with the ball too, showing improved accuracy and mental strength in pressure situations.

All that adds up to a very different timbre to the Bangladesh v South Africa encounter this time around.

As for South Africa, there was so much focus on the opening match of the World Cup in the lead-up to it, they might be forgiven for having to double-check the schedule to confirm who their opponents in their second match would be. The South Africans themselves sought to downplay the significance of that occasion, but having been outplayed in all departments by the hosts, they really do need to get moving now. That opening salvo at The Oval will add to South Africa’s familiarity with their surroundings, calming the nervous energy that would have been inevitable in a tournament opener, and they have a chance to redeem themselves.

While their bowling is packed with powerful options, South Africa’s batting slide on Thursday emphasised just how much they rely on a few members of their top order, and Quinton de Kock more than anyone. De Kock top-scored for his team with 68 on Thursday, and he has scored more ODI runs (810) than anyone else in South Africa’s squad over the past year, though captain Faf du Plessis is a not-too-distant second. To give you an idea of how much the rest of the top order has been underperforming recently, third on that run-scoring list is Reeza Hendricks, who isn’t even part of this squad. Bangladesh’s attack will not offer the same challenges as England’s did, and it would do South Africa’s other batsmen a world of good to fill their boots on Sunday.

Bangladesh’s ambitions in this World Cup extend to reaching the semi-final, at least, and a strong start will bolster that aim. A win for South Africa will get their own campaign back on track.

Form guide

(Last five completed matches, most recent first)

Bangladesh: WWWWL

South Africa: LWWWW

In the spotlight

If their middle-order continues to under-perform, it won’t take long for the idea to spread that if Quinton de Kock can be dismissed early, the soft underbelly of South Africa’s batting can be exposed. Despite an atrocious tour of Bangladesh in 2015, when he averaged just 14.66, de Kock’s career average against Bangladesh is 66.20. If he gets in, and gets on top, he could quickly bat them out of the match. But if he falls early, Bangladesh will sense an opening.

Mustafizur Rahman‘s one-day form has been inconsistent of late, but with his variations of pace and mixed bag of cutters, he will find conditions at The Oval to his liking – on Thursday, the greenness in the track and some tennis-ball bounce were on show. If he is fit and firing, he’ll add some real fizz to Bangladesh’s attack, and his early battle with de Kock could prove pivotal to the eventual outcome of the game.

Team news

Bangladesh had a couple of injury concerns ahead of their first game, with injuries to Tamim Iqbal (wrist), Mashrafe Mortaza (hamstring), Mustafizur (calf) and Saifuddin (back), while Shakib Al Hasan has recently recovered from back spasm. Tamim had a lengthy net session on the eve of the match, but he didn’t look too comfortable on the drive, taking his hand off the bat as he played the shot. But even if he isn’t 100%, Tamim might play.

Bangladesh (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal/Liton Das, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Mohammad Mithun, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Mosaddek Hossain, 8 Mehidy Hasan, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Rubel Hossain

Hashim Amla did not take part in training on Saturday as a result of the blow to the head he received courtesy Jofra Archer in the opener. If he does not play on Sunday, it could mean Aiden Markram will be pushed up to open – a position he is comfortable in – and David Miller could slot into the middle-order. Dale Steyn, meanwhile, did bowl in the nets on Friday and Saturday, but it has been confirmed that he wouldn’t be making his comeback in the Bangladesh game. There’s an outside chance that Tabraiz Shamsi could also play as a second spinner, if South Africa feel the conditions warrant it, though they probably wouldn’t want to ring too many changes.

South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 Rassie van der Dussen, 5 David Miller, 6 JP Duminy, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Dale Steyn, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Imran Tahir

Pitch and conditions

The pitch will be the same one used in the first match against England, so South Africa will know what to expect: a tinge of green, some early nip, and decent bounce. An overcast day will add to the early challenges for the batsmen, but this wasn’t the quickest track on Thursday, and any wear-and-tear to the surface may well help Bangladesh, who could easily rattle through at least 30 overs of spin. That said, Imran Tahir suggested that there wasn’t too much grip for the slow bowlers against England and there should still be plenty of runs in the track.

Strategic punts

  • Although de Kock has converted his fifties to hundreds only 20% of the time since the 2017 Champions Trophy, he has been in great form and his record against Bangladesh should alarm his opponents. He averages 66.2 against them, and scores at a strike rate of 99.7. Send him back ASAP, Bangladesh.

  • If Bangladesh do get to bat first, they’ll want to go big. Since 2017, South Africa have won just one of the six ODIs where they have had to chase a 300-plus target.

  • Leaving JP Duminy out and bringing in David Miller might be the way to go for South Africa, especially if they need to chase like against England. Since the 2015 World Cup, Duminy has averaged only 27.1 and has a strike rate of around 80 in chases. Miller, meanwhile, averages over 40 and strikes at over 100 in the same period in chases.

Stats and trivia

  • Over the last year, no South African batsman has scored as many runs as de Kock’s 810

  • The Oval has not been a happy hunting ground for Bangladesh. They have lost twice here to England – by ten wickets and eight wickets – and only escaped a third defeat, to Australia during the Champions Trophy, thanks to the rain.

  • Shakib needs one wicket to become fastest to 250 wickets and 5000 runs in ODIs.

  • If he does play, Hashim Amla can get to 8000 runs in ODI cricket with just 77 more – and if he can reach that mark in this innings (or his next) he will become the fastest to the milestone, beating Virat Kohli (175 innings). Amla was also the fastest to 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000 and 7000.

  • This will be Imran Tahir’s 100th ODI appearance

Quotes

“We just lost to one of the best teams in the world on that day, and they played good cricket. So if we learn from our mistakes, I think we’ll be fine.”
Imran Tahir isn’t too fussed about the loss to England

“He had a fitness test. I think Tamim will give a final call, how he is feeling. It all depends on him. Players understand how they are feeling. Tamim will give his final call.”
Mashrafe Mortaza is leaving his premier opener to take the call

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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