When Bangladesh piled up 306 runs on the opening day of the tour match against Cricket South Africa (CSA) XI, they sent out the message loud and clear that they will not enter the Test series against the hosts as underdogs. The last time Bangladesh toured South Africa was nine years ago in 2008 and ever since then, the Asian team has gone through massive changes. However, the fact that Bangladesh is yet to defeat South Africa in a bilateral Test series and for that matter, they are yet to win a Test against South Africa, has certainly affected their tour itinerary as they will not play at any of South Africa’s major grounds.

The Tests are in Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein, which have hosted only one and four Tests respectively. Potchefstroom’s only previous Test, in the 2002/03 season, also involved Bangladesh. Bangladesh faced heavy defeats, losing by an innings. in all the four Tests they played on their previous tour to South Africa. However, this Bangladesh is altogether a different side. Taking their recent results into inclusion over top-ranked Test sides, South Africa can no way underestimate these opponents.

Bangladesh will be without the services of their best player, Shakib Al Hasan, who has decided to take a break but their recent results will be their motivation to give their everything against the Proteas. Ever since former Sri Lankan batsman Chandika Hathurusingha took over as coach in 2014, Bangladesh have gained some notable results, including Test wins against England, Sri Lanka and Australia. Apart from their ODI series wins against South Africa and India at home.

While the wins over Australia and England were at home, Bangladesh conquered Sri Lanka in the latter’s backyard to end the two-Test series 1-1. The Test win at Colombo had another special significance – it was Bangladesh’s 100th Test. Bangladesh cannot afford to make mistake by taking their away Test win against Sri Lanka as a huge achievement ahead of their Test series in South Africa. Considering how strong South Africans are at home, Bangladesh have a mountain task ahead of them, with the first Test starting on September 28. Apart from England and Australia, no other Test side have ever managed to beat the Proteas on their home soil in a bilateral Test series.

Prior to the start of the series, here are the six players who can be impactful for the Tigers:

Tamim Iqbal:

When a 19-year-old Tamim smashed 121 off 71 balls against England in the U-19s, he seemed to be an assured batsman in the coming years for Bangladesh. And as a 21-year-old, he sealed a place for himself in the top-order and ever since then he has been a precious part of the Bangladesh side, across formats. Tamim was a part of the Bangladesh squad that toured South Africa in 2008 but in the two Tests he played there, he failed to register even a fifty.

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However, a lot has changed since then. He has grown into a better batsman and his performance in Bangladesh’s recent tour of England testified his adaptation to the bouncy and fast tracks. He has something many cricketing legends have been eluded off – a century at the Lord’s.

In the first day of the tour match against CSA XI, Tamim retired after he suffered a thigh injury. He was supposed to undergo scans on Friday to find out the extent of the injury but no news have been given out about his availability for the first Test. Bangladesh would hope the injury is not serious because, after Shakib, Tamim’s exclusion will only make the team weaker.

Mushfiqur Rahim:

Having played 56 Tests, the skipper is the most experienced player in the current squad. With him in the side, the middle or the lower-order is sorted as he is amongst the versatile players who can bat at any position in the middle or the lower order. He usually tends to come at No. 6 so that if the top-order suffers a collapse, there is an experienced batsman down the order to do the damage repair. He is not only a dependable batsman but also a technically sound wicketkeeper. Being the most successful keeper of Bangladesh, he hardly makes any mistake behind the wickets.

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A combination of wicketkeeping and leading the side only strengthen the side and Bangladesh is fortunate to have that in Rahim. Standing behind the wickets, he can judge the batsman thoroughly, his weaknesses, strengthens and accordingly, he sets the field and instructs the bowlers. In the recently ended Australia series, he managed a fifty from four innings. However, the number of balls he had faced was more important than the runs he scored. He justified his character of playing stubborn knocks under pressure, that primarily brought him in the side during his initial days in Test cricket.

However, he does not have great numbers to back him in away series. Seeing his average of 29.25 in South Africa, which is the second worst after his numbers in England, Bangladesh will find themselves in major trouble if their captain fails to deliver. Although he have Sabbir Rahman with him down the order, it will be necessary for him to lead from the front in order to motivate the others.

Mahmudullah Riyad

In the absence of former World No.1 all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, who last played a Test in Sri Lanka in March earlier this year, has been recalled for the South Africa. The 31-year-old. after failing to be up to the mark was subsequently dropped for the second Test. He has a huge task ahead of him to prove his worth and justify his selection. This tour might be his last chance to cement his place in the Test side. Bangladesh’s chief selector revealed that Mahmudullah was his personal choice based on his ability to adapt well on bouncy pitches and seaming conditions.

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His Test career started off well as he took only five Tests to reach the triple figures for the first time. However, his maiden Test century, which happened against New Zealand in the one-off Test in 2010, still remains his only Test hundred. Even in the ODIs, he always performed well but failed to maintain consistency. In 2012, when he single-handedly derailed West Indies to their first defeat in Bangladesh, he suddenly became the hero and slowly closed to national captaincy. Once again, that was followed by a series of poor performances before he was dropped.

His scores of 15 and one-ball duck in the respective innings of the tour match against CSA XI were not helpful neither for him nor for Bangladesh.

Mustafizur Rahman

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One of Bangladesh’s most loved players over the years has been Mustafizur Rahman. Since his dream debut two years ago, Mustafiz’s left-arm pace-bowling charmed the world and ardent followers of Bangladesh cricket fans. It was against South Africa at Chittagong in 2015 he announced his arrival as one of the potent bowlers in Test cricket. In one of the most lethal spells of Test cricket, Mustafiz triggered a dramatic collapse where even the best in the business like Hashim Amla was completely left clueless as well. Injuries undermined his brilliant run, but in the Test series against Australia, he hinted about his comeback and in South Africa, Mustafiz’s bowling form would be a vital factor for Bangladesh.

Mehidy Hasan Miraz:

He is the other spinner, along with Taijul, who play the support role with Shakib as the lead in Bangladesh’s spin trio. Being a teenager, he has emerged as the youngest stars of Bangladesh cricket. He was the second highest wicket-taker for Bangladesh with 8 scalps behind Shakib’s 12. After his heroics in the U-19 World Cup in Feb 2016, where he led his team to a semi-final, he was given a dream debut the same year in October against England.
Since South Africa have never played against him and there are hardly any videos as he has very less international experience, that might work in the favour of Hasan.

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He is a batting all-rounder and has a Test fifty in 9 Tests he has played so far. He will come handy if Bangladesh’s top and middle collapse, he can be expected to hold the innings for quite some time down the order and chip in with certain crucial runs.

Taijul Islam:

In the absence of Bangladesh’s front-line spinner, Shakib, Taijul, a promising 25-year-old must take the responsibility on his shoulders along with the other spinner in the squad. When the left-arm spinner managed to trouble the likes of World No. 1 Test batsman Steven Smith, he can certainly find a way out to make life difficult for AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and other right-handed batsmen in the South African team. He ended the two-Test home series against Australia with six wickets to his name.

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Taijul, who is a specialist to remove the tail, did exactly that during the tour match. He removed the set No. 7 batsman Pretorius on 42.

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