Bangladesh bowling looked clueless in the first ODI against host South Africa at De Beers Diamond Oval in Kimberley as the Proteas openers Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla posted a world record stand while chasing the 279-run target.
It would not have been a world record if Bangladesh did not drop two chances to take wickets during South Africa’s innings. Fast bowler Taskin Ahmed and all-rounder Nasir Hossain dropped two catches but nevertheless, it was a hapless bowling performance from Bangladesh although the pitch was pretty much batting friendly. And certainly, this is not the first time Bangladesh bowlers looked below-par in their tour so far.
The South Africa tour has gone wrong in many ways for the Tigers, if compared to their performance at home and abroad in the last two years. In the Test series, the Tigers batsmen were under the firing line as among four innings, Bangladesh were folded for 320 and 90 in the first Test match at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom and 147 and 172 in the second and final Test at Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein.
On the other hand, the South African batsmen feasted on the same pitch. But overall, the bowling has been frustrating throughout the entire tour, and clueless as well, in three innings among the total four in Tests, and also in the practice match and first ODI.
South Africa bowlers took 72 wickets overall in eight innings against Bangladesh during the Tigers’ tour of South Africa this year. Among them - 16 wickets were taken in the three-day warm-up game (two innings), 20 wickets (including two run outs) in the first Test (two innings) , 20 wickets (two innings) in the second Test, 10 wickets in the 50-over practice match and seven wickets in first ODI.
Compared to those statistics, Bangladesh bowlers were able to bag only 25 wickets in six innings. Among them eight wickets were taken in the three-day practice match (one innings), nine wickets in the first Test (two innings and one dismissal was a run out), four wickets in the second Test (one innings), four wickets in the 50-over practice match and no wickets in the first ODI.
In terms of bowling strength, Bangladesh are equal, or even slightly ahead than their opposition, as the Tigers picked five pacers in the Test series – Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin, Rubel Hossain, Subashish Roy and Shafiul Islam. And in the ODI squad, they included all-rounders Shakib al Hasan, Saifuddin and Nasir.
In contrast, South Africa missed pacemen Dale Styen, Vernon Philander, Chris Morris and even Morne Morkel in the second Test. But the in-form Kagiso Rabada and the second-string Proteas pace attack was more than enough to bundle Bangladesh out, posting huge margins of victories along the way.
In the first innings of the first Test, Bangladesh bowlers managed to take only two wickets, the other one being a run-out. After electing to field first, Bangladesh managed to notch only one wicket (run-out) on day one. Second innings saw Bangladesh picking up six wickets, but among those six, part-time spinner Mominul Haque took three.
The second Test was more frustrating for the bowlers, despite Bangladesh changing the whole bowling attack with the exception of Mustafizur. But the result was even worse. South African batsmen once again made a run-festival against Bangladesh bowlers. So how frustrating was Bangladesh’s bowling after the Test series?
Let us listen to captain Mushfiqur Rahim’s comments regarding his bowlers after those two Tests.
“You can say we should have batted first on a flat wicket but I don’t believe our bowlers can’t bowl on a flat wicket. At least they could have bowled in the right line and length, if not take wickets. This skill gets you to play for the national team. Even I could have bowled two balls out of six in the right place. The bowlers disappointed me a lot in the first innings,” opined Mushfiq.
“Bowlers have to develop these skills individually. I don’t think anyone can teach you these things. Our bowling unit has improved like our batting has over the last five years. They must have the hunger to do well. They can at least bowl in the right areas, forget about swinging the ball both ways. You don’t need a coach to help you if you want to do it yourself. You represent your country to bowl five out of six balls in the right place. We have a lot to learn as a bowling unit and for that the bowlers need to show the passion,” added a frustrated Mushfiq after the first Test.
And after second Test the frustration remained and once again, the Bangladesh Test captain raised his voice against his bowlers.
“It could be my failure that I can’t motivate my bowlers. Maybe I wasn’t able to give them the message properly. The bowling coach can’t go and do it himself. He bowls in the nets every day but we still can’t work him to mid-on or mid-off,” he said.
“It is our failure if someone can’t learn and execute. There was not a lot of movement but it was a good wicket for the bowlers. If they could have utilised the new ball, we may have had early wickets. It didn’t happen, unfortunately,” a dejected Mushfiq said after South Africa’s first innings in the second Test.
The spin department also did not perform at all in the Test series as both youngster Mehedi Hasan Miraz and left-arm spinner Taijul Islam played one Test each but were not able to take a single wicket. But on the other hand, South Africa spinner Keshav Maharaj bowled well in both the Tests and caused plenty of trouble to the batsmen.
All these bowlers are playing together as a unit for Bangladesh for the last few years and brought significant success at different times. But in this series, these bowlers completely lost the ability to consistently bowl a tight line and length and also failed to check the runs.
Bangladesh may have fallen short by 40-50 runs in the first ODI. But that does not mean Bangladesh’s bowling is that bad that South Africa can chase down the target with 10 wickets in hand.
Many people may question West Indian great Courtney Walsh’s credibility as the Tigers’ pace bowling coach. But the matter of fact is that bowlers need to perform their basics at the middle first.
Pacers had the chance to shine in this tour as Bangladesh always rely on their spinners in Tests to win matches. But so far, the pacers have not bowled according to plan and did not get any success.
Like Mushfiq said, “Bowling coach can’t go and do it himself. Bowlers have to develop these skills individually”.
This tour has been a reality check for Bangladesh, going to show how their bowlers, particularly the pacers, struggled on foreign pitches. So how should Bangladesh overcome this? One solution might be to play long-term first-class cricket more seriously. Otherwise it’s pretty hard to perform well in Tests overnight.
And more bad news from the ongoing tour came in the shape of Mustafizur, perhaps the only Bangladesh bowler who tried something different and positive, who has been ruled out from the remainder of the series.
So the onus is on the remaining bowlers, particularly pacers, to produce some good results and possibly gain some confidence in the rest of the matches of the tour.