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Hotchpotch in Potch

  • Published at 08:07 pm October 3rd, 2017
  • Last updated at 08:25 pm October 3rd, 2017
Hotchpotch in Potch
The Tigers' defeat against host South Africa was not shocking but the massive margin of the loss - 333 runs - and the way Bangladesh conceded defeat were the main talking points from the first Test match, held at Senwes Park. It was expected that the South Africa tour will be difficult for the Tigers as the Proteas have always been considered a tough opposition away from home for all the Test-playing nations, particularly the Asian countries, due to the fast and bouncy nature of the wickets. Often teams face difficulties to cope with the bowling-friendly tracks and the Proteas’ formidable pace-bowling attack. Bangladesh have played four Tests in South Africa - two in 2002 and as many in 2008 - and surrendered in all of them by innings defeats. But this time around, in 2017, after playing good cricket in the last couple of years in Tests, fans expected a better display from Bangladesh in the first Test in Potchefstroom. The Tigers have shown significant improvements in the recent past. Defeating England and Australia at home in Tests , and Sri Lanka away showed that Bangladesh are on the right track to becoming a better outfit in five-day cricket. But the first Test against the Proteas gave a reality check to the Tigers.

Also read: We will bat better in the second Test, says Mahmudullah

The only improvement Bangladesh made, compared to the previous four Tests played in South Africa is that this time, they only managed to avoid the follow-on in the first innings. To add to that, the Tigers batsmen gave a good account of themselves in the first innings but were unable to drive home the advantage. There were three fifty-plus partnerships but none of the stands crossed 100. What's more, almost half the Bangladesh batsmen got starts in the first innings, including two half-centuries, but none of them converted their innings into a big one. A defeat in South Africa is not shocking at all but what is surprising is the abject way Bangladesh admitted defeat even before they lost the match. The Test started with a surprise call from captain Mushfiqur Rahim. The Bangladesh skipper elected to field on an absolutely flat batting track. But how flat the track actually was? The answer can be ascertained from two comments. One from Sabbir Rahman after day one, and the other from Proteas captain Faf du Plessis following day five. Sabbir said after the first day that the wicket was similar to Chittagong’s! They never expected such a batting track in South Africa. So the obvious question was - why did Bangladesh chose to field then? The answer from Sabbir was, “It was an easy decision. Every captain will take fielding after winning the toss in South Africa.” Is it? Every captain will field first in South Africa? Well, the stats suggest otherwise. According to statistics, only on 65 occasions, the toss-winning captain fielded first in South Africa. While 156 times the skipper who won the toss decided to take first guard. And let us come to Du Plessis’ answer. When asked about the wicket after day five, the Proteas captain straightaway expressed frustration and disappointment regarding such a batting track and demanded a more traditional South African wicket in the Bloemfontein Test. Even in the final day of the Potchefstroom Test, Mushfiq defended his decision to field first and said it was a team decision. So perhaps the “fear factor” regarding “fast and bouncy” South African pitches forced the Bangladesh team to take the decision of fielding first on an absolutely flat “Chittagong-like” wicket. “All of us took the decision. None of us knew about this sort of wicket in South Africa. It was hard for us to predict such a wicket. We practised on a totally different wicket. On any flat wicket, the help for the bowlers come within the first two hours. If you think about what will happen in the fourth innings and then get bowled out for 100 in the first innings, it becomes difficult,” Mushfiq said after the game. So according to Mushfiq, they thought the first two hours will help the bowlers and Bangladesh could have been all out for 100 in the first innings if they had batted first. 100 all out! That doesn’t speak well of the confidence from a team who had just beaten Australia in Tests.

Watch: Game on! Bangladesh vs South Africa First Test – Day 5

And according to Mushfiq’s comments, Bangladesh thought the first two hours could really help the bowlers. So they did not take the chance of facing fast bowlers Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada in these two hours, although South Africa were missing their main pace bowling duo Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander. But then, what actually happened in those first two hours of play on day one? Mushfiq brought off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz to the attack in just the sixth over of the first innings after electing to field first. Yes, it happened in the sixth over after electing to field first. Pacer Shafiul Islam, who opened the bowling alongside fellow paceman Mustafizur Rahman, only got two overs in his first spell on a day one pitch. And also, Bangladesh opened the bowling with off-spin again when South Africa came out to bat in the second innings. A spinner opening the bowling in South Africa in Tests.

Also read: Morkel ruled out of second Bangladesh Test

Strange, isn’t it? And again, how was the wicket for batsmen on day one? Well, South Africa batsmen batted like it was a walk in the park and lost only one wicket throughout the entire opening day. That wicket came courtesy a run out caused by a confusion between the South Africa openers Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram. The Proteas went on to post a huge first innings total of 496/3 before declaring their innings as the Bangladesh bowlers tasted success only twice, with the exception of the run out dismissal. After Sabbir’s comments during the day one press conference, there were also some brave statements from the Bangladesh camp in the latter part of the Test. If we follow the post-day press conferences after each day then we will find Taskin Ahmed saying, “We are pretty happy with the bowling” (even after South Africa scored 496 for the loss of three wickets in the first innings), Mominul Haque saying, “Everyone batted well and there was no need of anchoring” (after first innings) and finally, Liton Kumar Das saying “We were never out from the game” (after day four). So gutsy comments in the post-day pressers. But those same guts and attitude were required in the middle as well. However, after showing a lot of confidence and guts in the press conference, Bangladesh were all out playing just 32.4 overs in the second innings.

Also read: Mushfiq defends decision to field first

To be more precise, Bangladesh lost their last seven wickets in just 17.1 overs on day five when South Africa’s main fast bowler in the form of Morkel was out of the field injured. On the final day, Rabada and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj proved to be too strong for Bangladesh in Potch, short form of the city Potchefstroom, as they were bundled out for less than 100, which never happened against the Proteas in the previous four Tests, even if the Tigers had conceded innings defeats each and every single time. So after that those gutsy comments from young players in the post-day pressers, Mushfiq came to the press conference with a dejected heart and apologised to the nation before lashing out at his bowlers and batsmen for poor performance. There is no need to apologise, captain. Bangladesh have the ability and talent to win matches. These are the same players who have won games for the nation. We just need to adjust our approach and application. There will be losses and wins.

Also read: Mushfiq apologises to nation for disappointing batting

It’s impossible to win every match. But at least the team can show enough fight with proper application. That’s the thing that is required. Defeat against South Africa in South Africa is not shocking at all. But the way Bangladesh lost the Test and surrendered in the second innings is alarming. Showing guts during post-day presser is not the only target of the “tough away series” in South Africa. The young Bangladesh guns need to show their courage in the middle of the pitch with a commanding performance as well. Bangladesh have made strong comebacks in the recent past and produced better displays. Let’s hope this time also the team will regroup and play relatively better cricket with proper application and mind set up in the Bloemfontein Test, although there might be a greenish pitch awaiting.
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