A 333-run thrashing despite winning the toss on a flat track — coming into this two-Test series in South Africa, such disappointing outing was certainly not on the cards for Mushfiqur Rahim’s team, which has played some spirited cricket in recent years. Apart from the toss and some gutsy batting effort by Mominul Haque and Mahmudullah in the first innings, nothing went right for the Tigers in Potchefstroom.
Along with the rare batting collapse in the second innings, which was Bangladesh’s maiden double-digit score in Test cricket in past 10 years, the other disappointing aspect about their performance in the match, was the venom-less bowling effort, especially from the fast bowlers.
In Potchefstroom, Bangladesh played three pacers, Taskin Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman and Shafiul Islam, but collectively in both innings, they took only five scalps in 108 overs. In fact, Taskin, the fastest of amongst the three, went wicketless after bowling 32 overs in the game.
In the first innings, on that slow wicket, the pacers did not put any pressure on the likes of Dean Alger, debutant Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla. They were just milking the harmless Bangladesh bowling with ease. In fact, forget about putting pressure and troubling the batsmen, none of the Bangladeshi pacers could manage to hit the right areas on a consistent basis. Instead, they were wayward and leaking runs, which resulted in a cakewalk for the Protea batsmen. In fact, the trio couldn’t even regularly beat the bat.
In the second innings, Mustafizur tied to change things a bit by coming around the stumps and bowl in the corridor of uncertainty. The change of angle worked as the left-armer had both Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla caught behind cheaply. However, Mustafizur’s colleagues, Shafiul and Taskin looked clueless throughout the entire match.
If you wish to compete against South Africa at their own backward, you certainly need a better effort from the pacers as in this part of the world a captain cannot only rely on spinners to get the breakthroughs.
Meanwhile, skipper Mushfiqur Rahim did not shy away from taking dig out of his bowlers’ efforts.
“At least they could have bowled in the right line and length, if not taking wickets. This skill gets you to play for the national team. Even I could have bowled two balls out of six in the right place. The bowlers disappointed me a lot in the first innings. A team benefits if you can at least contain the runs when you can’t take the wickets.”
On the hindsight, South African fast bowlers took 11 wickets in 82 overs in the match. Both Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada were always attacking the Bangladesh batsmen with pace and bounce. They put up a classic exhibition of how to bowl on a slow wicket.
So, clearly, it was the lack of skills, discipline, experience and exposure on the part of Bangladesh pacers which resulted in such a shambolic effort.
However, this was not the first time it happened. In Wellington earlier this year, Bangladesh lost a Test match despite scoring 595 in the first innings. It seems in conditions where the ball doesn’t turn, Bangladesh will always struggle to take 20 wickets, until and unless they find out some spark from somewhere in the pace bowling department.
The captain Mushfiqur also agrees with the fact that Bangladesh at present do not have proper fast bowling resources in which he can rely on, especially while playing outside Asia.
“Our bowling unit hasn’t improved like our batting has over the last five years. They must have the hunger to do well. They can, at least, bowl in the right areas; forget about swinging the ball both ways. You don’t need a coach to help you if you want to do it yourself. You represent your country to bowl five out of six balls in the right place. We have a lot to learn as a bowling unit and for that, the bowlers need to show the passion.”
Following such a display, it will be very surprising if Shafiul and Taskin manage to hold on their place in the second Test at in Bloemfontein, which starts on October 6. Bangladesh have the option of picking speedster Rubel Hossain and young Subashis Roy, who was Bangladesh’s best bowler in the warm-up at the start of the tour.
However, by changing the players, the issue won’t be solved overnight. The bowlers have to bowl with an attacking mindset. In Bloemfontein where there is likely to be a more pace-friendly pitch, the Bangladeshi pacers have to bowl at a fourth-stump line and hit the three-quarter length on a consistent basis. It could create doubt in the batsmen’s minds.
Furthermore, they have to add to their current skills and find out new ways to get batsmen out. Most importantly, as the captain mentioned, they need to ‘show the passion’ to bowl in a Test match for the country.