Bangladesh had a fantastic run in the home Test season, beating some of the big guns and scaling newer heights in red ball cricket. They raised the bar with some emphatic performances at home, but South Africa was always going to be a challenge of a different kind. There were talks about Bangladesh putting up a fight in South Africa, which was also going to be their litmus test, but every thought was put to rest after the first Test defeat.
They lost the opening battle at Potchefstroom by a whopping margin of 333 runs, more importantly, they were bowled out for 90 in the second innings after scoring 320 runs in the first. Many thought that Bangladesh just had a bad day in office and would bounce back at Bloemfontein, but it wasn’t to be. The result only got worse for Bangladesh as they lost the second encounter by an innings and 254 runs. Although there were a list of reasons why Bangladesh lost the series, including poor captaincy, erratic bowling and unimpressive batting, but Bangladesh did nothing specific with the bat.
The top four batsmen play a very important role in the batting line-up. The openers negotiate the new ball and get a team off to a good start after which, the Number 3 and 4 keep up the tempo or build an innings if the openers fails. A majority of the run-scoring responsibility comes up on their shoulders and their success holds a lot of importance on how the team will fare.
Bangladesh’s top four didn’t have a great run in the Test series against South Africa and have been mediocre in the recent times, which has affected the team’s run. There aren’t too many 100s being scored by Bangladesh’s top four. In Test cricket, these are the positions, which witness a lot of centuries being scored.
An early dismissal is still alright as the batsman might have struggled to get going, but getting out after a solid start is atrocious. Bangladeshi batsmen have let it go very often after getting a decent start. 70s, 80s after a point does not do a lot of good and demands daddy hundreds to put pressure on the opposition.
Let’s analyse Bangladesh’s top 4 performances in the four innings against South Africa. In the opening Test at Potchefstroom, South Africa’s top 4 collected 464 with two centuries and a 97 run inning while Bangladesh scored 153 runs without any centurion. In the second innings, South Africa’s tally was 132 whereas Bangladesh’s was just 48.
In the second Test, South Africa had three centurions from the top 4 while the highest-scorer from Bangladesh’s top four was 32 from both the innings. In the first innings, Bangladesh’s top 4 accounted for 46 runs while in the second the tally was just 72, nowhere close to even a century.
In last one year, Bangladesh have batted 11 batsmen in the top 4 in as many as 11 games. They have scored 2558 runs at a modest average of 29.40 and the highest score of 104. The fact that they have had just a solitary century in the said period speaks about their conversion rate.
A champion team like India have played 13 games in last one year in which, they have batted nine batsmen in the top 4. They have scored 4452 runs at a staggering average of 57.81 along with 15 centuries and the highest score of 235.
Speaking about centuries, England, who have had a reasonable amount of trouble in the top-order have 7 centuries in last one year and averages 34.99. South Africa have 14 centuries from the said period. Australia averages 45.02 and have 11 centuries from the top 4. Sri Lanka have been going through a rebuilding phase and have faced some tough times in the recent series. But, Sri Lanka have 9 centuries from top 4 in last one year at an average of 32.85.
In Bangladesh’s Test assignment against Australia, Bangladesh faced a similar problem. There were good starts but no big score. The only highest score was from Tamim Iqbal, who scored 78 in the second innings of the second Test. Bangladesh certainly need to pull up on this front in the matches to come. Against Sri Lanka too, they didn’t have a single centurion in four innings.
The series defeat to South Africa is huge and Bangladesh certainly have to overcome a mental barrier. There are few issues that need to be addressed at the earliest. Players like Soumya Sarkar, Mominul Haque, Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes need to convert and get big scores under their belt to lay a solid platform, which will only help Bangladesh flourish in the series to come. Bangladesh are expected to play a lot of cricket overseas, where batting against the new ball is always difficult and their top 4 have to pull up.