South Africa’s attack out-thought and out-classed Bangladesh’s steadily improving pack to defend a total of 148, more than half of which was scored by Faf du Plessis, who was unbeaten on 79 off 61 deliveries. On a dry surface that offered no pace and minimal turn, runs had to be ground out and no-one other than du Plessis, and to a lesser extent Rilee Rossouw, showed the patience required to do that.
Still, Bangladesh would have initially been pleased with their efforts in restricting South Africa to under 150. What they did not bargain for was being skittled out for less than 100 after South Africa’s second-tier attack enforced a stranglehold of their own. South Africa’s seamers, sans Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, adjusted their tactics to suit conditions and the two spinners – JP Duminy and Aaron Phangiso – benefited from the pressure they created.
Kyle Abbott announced South Africa’s intention to attack despite the dead pitch when he began with an over of short balls. Tamim Iqbal got the fourth one away for four but only managed to glove the sixth to Quinton de Kock to begin Bangladesh’s slide.
That approach set the tone and Kagiso Rabada, who started off bowling length, soon realised he needed to emulate up. He delivered a searing bouncer, Soumya Sarkar could not control the pull and JP Duminy at deep square leg had a simple catch.
Abbott and Rabada continued with that line of attack to keep Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim fairly quite but Wayne Parnell offered some release. He went full for half of his first over, allowing some respite, but David Wiese put the choke back on with slower balls and back-of-length deliveries.
Unlike Bangladesh, who had begun their bowling with spin, South Africa waited until the seventh over to bring Aaron Phangiso on. At first, it seemed that was where Bangladesh could get back into the game. Mushfiqur and Shakib plundered 11 runs off Phangiso’s first over to demonstrate how comfortable they were against slower ball.
But they may have got too comfortable. Mushfiqur tried to charge Duminy in the same way but the bowler saw him coming, fired one in on the pads and had him caught at deep midwicket. Duminy also accounted for Sabbir Rahman, mostly thanks to de Kock, who took a diving catch off an attempted reverse-sweep, which initially hit the wicketkeeper on the thigh.
Phangiso did not go unrewarded either. Nasir Hossain hit a tossed-up delivery straight to short cover as Bangladesh began the second half of their innings with still needing 92 runs.
The last five wickets fell for 25 runs as South Arica’s seamers were rewarded for their guile. Wiese took pace off, Parnell found a hint of reverse swing and there was even a run-out, effected by none other than AB de Villiers, who would have wanted to make up for his lack of contribution with the bat.
De Villiers was used in the opening position and the experiment may still require some work. He was overly attacking from the get-go, even as Arafat Sunny cramped him for room, and only managed two runs before handing Mashrafe Mortaza a catch at cover.
De Kock was in a similar hurry and took over as the aggressor against Nasir. On his first attempt, de Kock managed to drag the ball past mid-on for two. On the second, he lifted it over the covers for six. But on the third, he sliced it into the hands of cover point to leave du Plessis and Duminy with a damage-limitation job.
In the midst of the pair’s rebuilding, Bangladesh introduced pace for the first time, in the sixth over. Mustafizur Rahman showed the rest how to make use of conditions which offered very little, by holding back his length a touch and making use of the cutter. He conceded just two runs in that over and South Africa were being tied down.
Du Plessis and Duminy upped the ante immediately after that. They took a four off each of the next four overs and concentrated on rotating strike to lift the run rate to seven an over by the halfway stage. More importantly, their partnership remained intact and South Africa went into the second half of their innings with eight wickets in hand.
With acceleration the aim, Duminy fell on his sword when he tried to hit Sunny over mid-on. Nasir took a good catch after initially misjudging the direction he had to run in. Du Plessis held form and four balls later brought up his half-century off 35 balls.
David Miller did not manage to stay with du Plessis, being trapped in front off Shakib, when trying to hit across the line. But the captain found a willing partner in Rossouw. Their fifth-wicket stand of 58 was the highest of the match and the 39 runs they took off the last four overs ensured South Africa had the runs they needed to take the series lead.
The new playing conditions for Tests, ODIs and T20Is came into effect with this match and Mustafizur’s no-ball for height in the 15th over awarded a free hit to South Africa.
2015 Kashmir Despatch