The stage is set for the Tigers to face the Proteas challenge when the first of two Test matches gets underway at Senwes Park Thursday at 2pm, Bangladesh standard time.
The series is being considered as one of the toughest tours for Bangladesh as playing away against South Africa at their own backyard under pace-bowling friendly conditions will be really challenging.
Over the past decade, sub-continent teams often struggled in South Africa due to the sheer pace and bounce of the wickets.
Bangladesh have improved their Test record, particularly in the last couple of years, playing some competitive and quality cricket away from home in 2017.
The first big challenge came against New Zealand away in January this year.
Although Bangladesh lost both the Tests there, they did produce some brilliant individual performances in the form of Shakib al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal.
Bangladesh exhibited some fight against India in February during the one–off Test before drawing the series against Sri Lanka in March to make history.
The next Test mission was against Australia and Bangladesh also showed some competitiveness throughout series.
The Tigers won the Mirpur Test but lost the Chittagong Test to draw the series 1-1.
After all these away Test experiences comes the South Africa series.
When asked about the challenge, Bangladesh Test skipper Mushfiqur Rahim went down memory lane, recalling all the success they have tasted this year in red-ball cricket.
And although Mushfiq said it will be a difficult task, he informed that it would not be impossible to perform and score big runs in South Africa.
“It’s difficult for sub-continent teams because when you are used to playing on slow and low wickets back home and when you are coming abroad to play on bouncy tracks, it is not going to be easy. But I don’t think it’s gonna be too difficult if we can apply ourselves, which we have done in a couple of Tests against New Zealand, especially in Wellington. In that Test particularly, our batsmen did a great job. I think we’ve had a couple of great days of training here and in Benoni as well, and our boys are looking good. But all the pressure will come in the middle and it will depend on how we handle that. Hopefully all the guys will put their hands up and show some courage and guts and face them, and hopefully it will be a great Test for us also to move forward, and if we can do well in this Test it will give us a lot of confidence to move into the next one,” he said.
There is some injury concern in the Bangladesh camp as opener Soumya Sarkar is not 100% fit yet and his participation in the match will only be decided in the final hour Thursday.
According to Mushfiq, Bangladesh can opt for three pacers in the playing XI with a specialist spinner but all the decisions will depend on Soumya’s availability.
If Soumya is unable to play then Imrul Kayes will open the innings with Tamim and in that case, Liton Das will replace Soumya.
South Africa will also face a challenge as they are going through a slight transition period.
Ottis Gibson has been named the new coach of South Africa after they lost the Test series against England this year.
Faf du Plessis has been named captain of the Test team as AB de Villiers extended his break from Test cricket.
South Africa are missing their key fast-bowling pair Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander as both have been ruled out injured ahead of the first Test.
The new Test captain of the Proteas informed that they are not taking Bangladesh lightly but also warned that the Tigers have to overcome the challenge of playing in these fast and bouncy tracks to have some chance.
“We are not taking any Bangladeshi player lightly. We know we have to play well to beat them. If we play according to our ith full potential in this condition then it could be difficult for Bangladesh and similarly if Bangladesh play with their full potential and we don’t then it will be good competition,” said Du Plessis in the pre-Test press conference.
“We’ve asked for a wicket with some pace and bounce in it…I am hoping that that happens. If it’s going to be a flat wicket, we probably have an extra bowling option. If it’s a wicket that spins, we’ll probably have an extra batting option. But it looks like it’s going to be a good wicket,” he added.