TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
YOU’VE heard this before, but what the hell: Bangladesh will make tough opponents for SA, particularly in their home conditions and especially in the shorter formats.
That could be true. It could also be marketing dressed up as news. After all, who among us South Africans is excited at the prospect of watching games against Bangladesh at odd hours? Without, that is, a helpful nudge from the media.
But Russell Domingo stuck to the script this week: “I’ve been to Bangladesh four times and this is the most excited I have ever been. We need to start playing cricket again.”
Indeed, and not least because the last time Domingo presided over a SA dressingroom – at the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in Auckland on March 24 – his team were emotionally undone by clumsy and unwanted interference in selection.
But there is no quibbling with the fact that Bangladesh have won six of their last seven one-day internationals at home. And that they beat proper teams – Pakistan and India. Mazeltov, and not before time. Having lost 208 of their first 299 ODIs, Bangladesh would seem to have figured out how to win.
What’s more, SA will be without Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel in the two T20s – the first of which is on Sunday – and three ODIs in Bangladesh.
That said, SA will have a good look at Eddie Leie, Kagiso Rabada, David Wiese, Beuran Hendricks and Chris Morris with an eye on the World T20 in India in March.
“It’s always exciting to get some young blood into sides; new energy and new ideas and guys that are receptive to listen and learn from people,” Domingo said. “Change is always a good thing.”
So far, so factual. Now for the fiction. Bangladesh have lost 10 of the 15 T20s they have played at home, and only one of their five wins has been achieved against decent opposition: Pakistan. They are in fact marginally more successful on enemy turf, where they have won six of their 15 T20s. By contrast, only at home and in West Indies are SA more successful than in Asia.
SA, then, should have little trouble winning on Sunday. Except, of course, if they fall victim to their unhappy habit of hitting the ground yawning rather than running at the start of a series.
Not so fast, fiction fans. Since readmission and across all formats, SA have a better win-to-loss record in the first match of a series than at any other stage of a rubber.
They have won 89 and lost 40 of the 156 games they have played first up, a positive ratio of 2.225. SA are in fact most vulnerable in the second game, where their win-loss ratio slips to a low of 1.482. They tend to bounce back in the third match, where the magic number is 2.193 – their second-highest mark.
Fact beats fiction every time, which is almost as often as SA have had the better of Bangladesh: in 23 of 24 games. Tough opposition? Really?