Eid not sweet for SA

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

IT’S Eid, but the biryani and biscuits won’t go down as well as they might have with SA’s players in Bangladesh.

Behind them lay the disaster of the one-day series, which Bangladesh won 2-1 to take a rubber off SA for the first time in nine attempts across all formats. Ahead of them loom two tests which, even if they win both by an innings, won’t take the sting out of the slap SA took in the ODIs.

Just how SA came unstuck against plucky and improving but still significantly inferior opponents is a question that will swirl around both countries’ cricket lore for decades.

But the players do not have the luxury of mulling over the events of the past six days, when SA lost the second and third ODIs, from a safe distance like the rest of us do.

And that goes for both teams: Bangladesh will feel the expectation of an increasingly vociferous public to perform well in the tests just as much as SA will want to take the edge off their embarrassment with a redemptive display.

The drama of the ODIs, then, will cast a long shadow across the test series, which starts in Chittagong on Tuesday.

The good news for SA is that Dale Steyn, who was rested for the short format games, is back after missing the shorter format series. So are Vernon Philander, Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma, Simon Harmer and Stiaan van Zyl. And Reeza Hendricks and Dane Vilas are in the mix.

Those names ring brightly – not only because they are all fine players but also as none of them will carry baggage from the one-day series into the tests.

And, Russell Domingo was keen to emphasise, SA’s strength was in the depth of quality in their ranks and not locked up in individuals.

“Dale is one of eight players that have joined us; we are by no means a one-player team,” Domingo told reporters. “Vernon Philander has been great for us, and Morne Morkel is also here.

“Dale has been a great player for us for a long period of time but there are also some other good players that have joined us over the last couple of days.”

For all that, much of the focus will be squarely on Steyn. South Africans will see him as a one-man cavalry riding to the rescue. Bangladeshis will want to ask him about saying he could not see the point in “wasting the few balls I have left in my career in a Bangladesh match”, especially in light of recent events.

The Bangladeshi spotlight will also be on a fast bowler, but one who has played 78 tests fewer than Steyn. Uncapped Mustafizur Rahman, who hit the headlines by taking 13 wickets in three ODIs against India in June, claimed six more scalps in the two T20s and three ODIs he played against SA.

Domingo admitted that SA would tread carefully around the willowy left-armer, but couldn’t resist firing a warning shot across his bows.

“Mustafizur is a guy we will need to be clever about when we go about our preparation,” Domingo said. “There is a difference between playing one-day cricket and test cricket. I’m sure he will find the challenges of Test cricket vastly different to the challenges of one-day cricket.”

Given what his players have been through, Domingo will hope that holds true for them as well.

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