TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
YOU can’t accuse Imran Tahir of not taking a balanced approach to the deciding one-day international between Bangladesh and SA in Chittagong on Wednesday.
“We are not worried about what happened in the last game …” he began on Tuesday with reference to SA’s shock seven-wicket loss in the second match of the series on Sunday.
“… or,” Tahir continued, “the game before” – the unsurprising result of the first match, which SA won by eight wickets. Similar one-sidedness coloured the visitors’ victories, by 52 and 31 runs, in the T20s.
No worries, then. Except that SA have given themselves and their supporters a heap of exactly that on a tour that would have no relevance where it not for Sunday, bloody Sunday.
How could a team so superior to their opponents come so badly unstuck, and that after dominating them for three consecutive matches?
SA’s players answered that question with their eyes, which were glazed with boredom, as if to say, “This lot again? Do we have to?”
Which is not to accuse SA of arrogance. Each of their players who has been in conversation with the media during the tour has found a way to say “Bangladesh have been playing really good cricket” – and that they have, what with reaching the World Cup quarter-finals and beating Pakistan and India in one-day series.
However, the effects of the hidings SA had dealt the home side were felt on both sides of the divide on Sunday.
The South Africans would not have wanted to believe Bangladesh could not possibly beat them, but they are as human as the rest of us.
The Bangladeshis, meanwhile, knew one win in the ODIs would guarantee their place in the 2017 Champions Trophy and give them the chance to earn a hattrick of series victories over teams stronger than them.
SA’s motivation on Wednesday – to spare themselves the embarrassment of conceding a series to abject minnows – is far less powerful. But it’s all they have.
“I think if we had put a better score on the board it would have been different,” Tahir said about Sunday’s sorriness. Damn straight: being dismissed for 162 by a popgun attack is not the stuff of success.
Thing is, SA cannot call on any frontline batting reserves. A top seven in which only Faf du Plessis and Farhaan Behardien made it to 25 on Sunday is all they have.
Morne Morkel, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell and Aaron Phangiso are the bowlers who have yet to be given a game in the ODIs.
Chris Morris, whose performances in the first two games have been as flat as suggested by his economy rate of 6.42 – the highest among SA’s bowlers – looks ripe for the chop.
Morkel should take his place. Unless, that is, SA look to also bolster their batting by picking McLaren.
Yes, Parnell could win the match with bat or ball. No, he hasn’t done anything of the sort nearly enough recently to warrant selection.
“If (Bangladesh) play well, they are going to win,” Tahir said. “But we are a team that never step back from any challenge.”
Good, strong words. It’s time to walk that talk.