When Bangladesh came out to bat after tea, everyone was astonished. The South African captain declared the innings whereas everyone expected the home team to post more than 550-plus in first innings. But Faf is a keen observer of the game and he wanted the visiting team’s batsmen to feel the heat without their regular opener and backbone of Bangladesh batting, Tamim Iqbal.
Faf noticed, Tamim spent a large part of the afternoon session off the field and might have thought, if he declares now, Bangladesh top order would be under pressure. The South African captain did something similar in the third Test against Australia last year where the Australian opening batsman, David Warner, who was off the field for a long period as he receiving treatment for his injured shoulder. Faf declared at 259 for 9 in the first innings and the Australians were caught off guard.
Faf’s declaration on the second day at Potchefstroom took Bangladesh by surprise and the visitors were forced to open the innings with Imrul Kayes and wicketkeeper, Liton Kumar Das, who kept wickets for 146 overs on a hot and sultry day. It was a tough challenge for the Dinajpur lad, but he showed no signs of nerve in the middle against the fury of Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada.
Even though Imrul Kayes kept on requesting to open the innings for the last couple of months, it was Liton, who faced the first ball of Bangladesh innings and he gave Bangladesh a lot of hope with his short but brief stay at the crease.
Morkel banged the first ball at pace in and around the middle and leg stump on a fullish length. Such sort of express deliveries even test the best in the business, but Liton used his feet confidently to flick the ball down the leg side to open his account with a couple. Morkel’s second and third ball were too hot to handle. Liton struggled to counter the second but against the third, he arched back perfectly to weather the storm.
Morkel persisted with a short and outside off line of attack against Liton in the third over. But Liton showed, technically how efficient he is – he guarded his offstump like a genuine opener and left the ball which meant threat and curbed his instincts to poke anything outside off. Then, when Morkel pitched it up, he was quick to shift his balance on the back foot and then come forward to drive the ball with a perfect timing.
One could get the idea of how strong Liton is on the back foot when Morkel pitched it short at an express pace in the ninth over: In the fourth ball Liton pivoted on the back foot and rolled his wrists like Ricky Ponting to send the ball towards the backward square leg boundary. The fifth ball was another rib snorter, which was treated in the similar fashion. It was a display of superb authority over back foot stroke-play.
The hallmark of Liton’s batsmanship is his ability to get on top of the bounce very well like Ponting and his footwork against pace bowlers make him a treat to watch. While playing the ball, his head never falls across the line and being blessed with a high backlift and solid defence, Liton should be a very good option for Bangladesh at the top.
It was Morkel who ended Liton’s brave stay at the crease. He paid the price of reaching out to a delivery which was outside the line. Perhaps, he got a bit carried away and that’s where Liton needs to work more. He needs to develop the patience to prolong his innings and it will only happen when he is given more opportunities to play in the team.