With bad weather looming for the final two days of the Test against Bangladesh, South Africa will have to decide if they want to go for the aggressive approach or simply see out the day. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
South Africa will spend the next two days battling a crumbling pitch and dubious weather in the hopes that they can keep their 100% win record against Bangladesh intact. After winning the toss and batting first, South Africa were dismissed for 248 in the first innings. Bangladesh responded with 326 as Dale Steyn struggled to find his mojo and Bangladesh’s batsmen knuckled down. Openers Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl saw South Africa to 61-0 at the close of play on day three, still 17 runs behind Bangladesh’s first innings total.
South Africa find themselves in a curious and, perhaps slightly unfamiliar position. Their first goal will be to take the possibility of losing out of the equation, but a blight on their winning record against Bangladesh will not be a good start to what is going to be a long season. Captain Hashim Amla will have to consider the dubious weather along with all the other factors if South Africa are to clinch a positive outcome from the first Test. But how they are going to set up the rest of the Test is not on South Africa’s mind just yet.
“We can’t look too far ahead in terms of targets. We want to focus on the first session tomorrow morning. Dean and Stiaan did a great job. There’s a lot of cricket that still needs to be played. We need to set a good base in the morning and from there we will start discussions on how to set the game up,” Simon Harmer said at the close of play.
Something that will play a factor in how those targets are set is the performance of the openers. Not a single player from either team has managed a century yet, though and it’s likely that whoever manages to do so, will play a match-winning (or saving) knock for their side. South Africa’s senior batsmen have not fired so far in this series, but first up it will be the openers who have to dig in. Elgar has played just two Tests on the subcontinent, but his century against Sri Lanka in Galle last year was one of the highlights and will serve as a reminder that he knows how to deal with these turning tracks. Van Zyl is new to Test cricket and fairly new to the subcontinent, but his previous visits have not been very fruitful.
Van Zyl has travelled to Bangladesh before, back in 2010 the South African A team. He had a dismal time, playing two first-class matches and scoring just 36 runs. When he travelled to Sri Lanka with the A team in 2010, it was a similar story. Van Zyl played two games and managed just 98 runs, although he did notch up a 50. That was five years ago, though, and Van Zyl has improved much as a player since. The fact that he has been hand-picked and groomed to slot into the opening role might do him some favours, but it’s only going to get tougher when South Africa travel to India later in the year. This is why Van Zyl’s knock is one of the more important ones he will play in his career. Failure is not going to put him on the sidelines for the upcoming tour to India, but it will knock his confidence. Elgar who, playing in just his 16th Test, finds himself as the senior partner in this venture, and will need to offer guidance to Van Zyl as South Africa go in search of a result.
Patience has been the key to success for batsmen in this Test, but South Africa do not have room for much patience in this Test. The weather is not on their side and as the track starts to deteriorate, conditions won’t be either.
By the time you are reading this, the pieces would have started to fit together a little bit more. You will know whether South Africa have gone guns blazing or whether they have decided to take the safer and more conservative approach to make they see out the day rather than push for a win. For Bangladesh, the mere fact that this Test is likely to go into a fifth day, for the first time ever against South Africa, the hard work is already done, no matter what the end result might be. DM
Photo: South Africa’s Dean Elgar plays a shot during the first day of the second cricket test match against Australia in Port Elizabeth February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
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