Tuesday, March 05, 2024
Updated: Friday, April 06, 2007
Facing South Africa

G. M. Bashar and Sreeram Iyer

Bangladesh meets South Africa for their third Super 8 match of the tournament on Saturday. On the back of two losses against New Zealand and Australia, the outlook may look bleak but the team should still refocus and scrutinize their opposition without excessive caution.

My first impressions are that the World Cup is turning into a splendid arena for top opening batsmen. Openers from Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa capitalised in superb fashion and led from the front. Hayden hit the fastest century; Fleming is in song in every match; Jayasuriya is back to his natural game. All of them understood that the the wickets in the Caribbean are, once early moisture, if any, evaporates from the pitch, a friendly track with big scores on offer. This is further reinforced by the unfortunate fates of Messrs. Vincent and de Villiers who could not survive the first few overs. Whereas , Jayasuriya and Hayden, icons representing two teams at the top of the order, capitalized by patiently negotiating the tricky opening spells before hitting out to up the pace helping their teams to big totals.

First of all, we hope to win the toss. Guyana has now seen enough matches ( England-Ireland; Sri Lanka- West Indies) where batting sides have lost early wickets. If we do win the toss then South Africa should be put to bat and their openers tested like there is no tomorrow. Early wickets are there for the taking and Masrafe should be able to trouble the openers like he did in Port of Spain. It is in this context that the introduction of Shahadat has been a tempting idea for many but one should bear in mind that the South Africans will be well trained to handle any extra pace. Anything short of length will be dealt mercilessly by them as they are fed a daily diet of that at home and have been well trained to cut and pull all the short stuffs.

It is a big risk that will have repercussions on how the rest of the match plays out. But South Africa is probably the last team I would use as a testing ground for a relatively new fast bowler. We have a few more matches where Shahadat will look a better option.

Considering these factors, Rasel’s experience and acceptable economy rate [1], together with good prospects for more penetration in swing conditions is a far better bet. If we do not win the toss then a few lessons from the South Africa/Ireland match would not hurt. Having said that, Bangladesh are not Ireland and the team must believe in their superior competence to spoil the same game plan that South Africa will be hoping to repeat.

The success of the openers is a rallying cry for the rest of the team and without Tamim’s successful surge against Indian bowlers we might not have won. This was so clear in the rest of Bangladesh’s matches where an inability to get on top of aggressive opening bowling led to collapse of the rest of the innings.

Consequently, one of the strategies against South Africa should be the quick removal of Kallis. So far he holds the key for them because of his anchoring role in the middle overs, in the mould of Dravid for India, Styris for the Kiwis and Hussey for Australia. Sometimes, he bats too slowly to the extent of irritation, but most of the time he stays for a while. He comes in early at number three but actually holds the batting in the middle overs and then passes it over to hitters like Boucher and Kemp. And so South Africa has always had late overs assaults.

Smith has had a great tournament so far but DeVilliers scored ducks in both the Super-8 matches[2]. The big men at the top of their line up carry a lot of responsibility unlike New Zealand which has a tested deep batting line up. This is one of the keys to ensuring a mid innings wobble that Sri Lanka succesfully created. It was the steadfast Jacques Kallis that prevented this against the Irish.

Batsmen have to perform in order for our bowlers to deliver.

Batsmen have to perform in order for our bowlers to deliver.

The question is how can our bowlers create such a pressure situation? We need Masrafee to work with the new ball and Rassel to continue where he left off in Antigua. Also, Razzak should be tested against Gibbs and Smith who have made mistakes against spinners in recent encounters. Kallis also has a tendency to be on the conservative side and I would fancy some tight spin coupled with a restrictive field to stifle and create pressure down the middle order. Bangladesh had considerably more success in the tournament against right handed batsmen than against left-handers which is not surprising considering that four of the bowlers are left handers. Unlike in the last three matches, the three spinners will have a chance to bowl against a line up that contains predominantly right handers[3].

And South Africa’s bowling? Their predictability that they still carry will not present a great threat of the magnitude we experienced against Australia as well as Sri Lanka. Apart from Makhaya Ntini, they don't have another bowler who averages five wickets per Test match. Shaun Pollock just concentrates on bowling line and length. Charl Langeveldt will continue to be a handy bowler in these conditions and the key for our batsmen is to play Ntini and Langeveldt carefully in the first 5-6 overs. The last time two sides played, in the 2004 Champions Cup, these two bowlers took six wickets between them.

If Bangladeshi batsmen could deal with Munaf Patel who managed sufficient bounce in Port of Spain then I do not see the need to be overcautious against Ntini. Another of South Africa’s well known problematic area is lack of variety; sameness and penetration on low and slow pitches have been their biggest deficiency together with not having a specialist spinner in the line-up. Ntini, Pollock, Hall, Kemp, Langeveldt and Kallis are all men with pace which can be easily taken for runs by batsmen who are set in the crease. However, we will see Hall and Kallis trying to use more yorkers, bouncers or even wide deliveries to upset any rhythm our batsmen achieve. For Bangladesh, this is a concern because they tend to get out easily whenever they look to create a good partnership or build momentum. To take advantage of the change bowlers, it is also imperative that we should not lose too many early wickets.

A psychological strategy with bravado will upset the South African game plan. And one of their game plans and asset is aggressive fielding. Creating incredible catching situations; creating confusions among batsmen through brilliant stops and dives; and turning half chances into opportunities together with speed are a few of the tricks with this team. Thus, one of the psychological ploys has to be to disrupt their fielding. A difficult task but can be put in place by batsmen willing to patiently deny half chances; hold back on unnecessary shots at wrong times and mix up the fielding side by rotating the strike.

So in terms of team profile who do we field. After a few losses selectors wanted to give Javed Omar and Tapash a break and are perhaps eyeing Shahadat too. But you put in your best men and they are the men who have delivered and that means getting our winning team back in! No changes in the opening pair and no change in our bowling attack. I believe our bowlers are very capable of restricting teams to manageable scores. But it is a two way street where the batsmen have to perform in order for our bowlers to deliver.


  1. Rasel is at 3.90, the next best Bangladeshi is Rafique at 4.96
  2. Smith scored 67, 91, 74, 59 and 41. deV made two fifties and three ducks.
  3. Against the top-order batsmen of the four Test sides, the three spinners have an economry rate of 4.24 and bowling average of 41.75 against right handers, and 5.79 and 77.5 against left handers.