Even those most dedicated and wise in the vagaries of international cricket would find it problematic to explain the Bangladeshi triumph over South Africa in the ODI series of the tour. It’s difficult to pinpoint the catalyst for the recent rise of Bangladesh in the fifty-over format but the Tigers have certainly arrived. The limited overs contests, however, are over. Bangladesh now face the ultimate examination of their character in hosting the Proteas for a two-Test series, a team with a long, proud and extraordinary record in the five-day game away from home.
To Win Match
South Africa 13/10
The Tigers must return back to earth on the double or risk a hammering in their backyard. Of course, Bangladesh hopes to translate their ODI form to the Test arena and victory in the shorter formats will most certainly fill the side with confidence. However, they meet a side well versed in grinding out Test results no matter the location or opposition, a side that is more or less back to full strength. One factor that will benefit the home side is their improved attitude in playing the short ball. Past Bangladeshi sides would struggle against genuine pace and bounce even on docile wickets but the new guard seem better equipped to deal with well directed bouncers. They’ll be forced to navigate a few of them. Bangladesh possess a settled and composed top-order made up of Imrul Kayes, Tamim Iqbal, Mominul Haque, Mahmudullah and Shakib Al Hasan. Mahmudullah’s return to the side following injury is particularly important as he adds depth to both the batting and bowling departments. Mominul Haque racked up half-centuries in eleven consecutive Tests to leave him one shy of AB de Villiers’ twelve-match record. He now has nine fifties and four centuries in 28 Test innings. Recent Tigers hero Soumya Sarkar will likely round out the top six, moving down the order in the longest format. Bangladesh will hope that the likes of the in-form Sarkar and Litton Das take their opportunities. Mustafizur Rahman has also earned his first Test call-up for the series and management is confident he will adjust quickly to the rigours of Test cricket.
Although Proteas fans would have been incredibly disappointed with the side’s showing in the final two ODIs, this series should provide some respite. South Africa are still the number one Test side by some distance and are unbeaten away from home in thirteen consecutive Test series, a period spanning nine years. They’ll likely be greeted by a batting-friendly surface in Chittagong tailored to negate the threat of their much-vaunted pace attack and give the opposition the chance of occupying some time at the crease and forcing a draw. With a dry, slow wicket on the cards, spin becomes the most important method in claiming twenty wickets to win the match. In that regard, off-spinner Simon Harmer is likely to make his second appearance for the Proteas and attempt to build on a successful debut against the West Indies at the beginning of the year. With the retirement of Alviro Petersen (who is currently sitting on 206* for Lancashire at the time of writing), the search is on for South Africa’s new opening batsman. Reeza Hendricks looks set for his Test debut in Chittagong, manning the top of the order with Dean Elgar. A star-studded middle-order containing Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock is only made poorer by the absence of AB de Villiers. Stiaan Van Zyl will likely take up his position at number five. A three-pronged pace attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander will look to extract anything on offer from the pitch.
The groundsman in Chittagong is notorious for producing flat wickets designed to serve the Bangladesh top order. I would expect nothing different as the first Test begins on Tuesday. Glancing at the past three matches at the ground, runs are noticeable. A triple-century by Kumar Sangakkara, plus a staggering five other centuries in the match led to a draw in February 2014 while four centuries were scored during New Zealand’s draw two months prior. Most recently, Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe in November with Imrul Kayes, Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque all striking hundreds. Rain is expected to be a constant threat this week.
VERDICT: Draw 7/10
With conditions likely to favour batsmen and the excessive forecast of rain, it’s tough to see a result here unless the weather changes drastically. I can’t see the Bangladesh attack dominating on a featherbed while South Africa’s Test attack is rusty and will need to rely on reverse swing to have an impact. The draw is the short price and can only be available due to the conditions. My suggestion is to supplement the bet by playing the In-Running markets should the weather clear.