The humiliation in the two Test matches is yet to sink in for the hapless Bangladesh team as they take on the Proteas for a three-match One Day series starting on the 15th of October. It is not as though this is Bangladesh’s first botched up tour of South Africa. They suffered even worse defeats the last two times they landed in this part of the World but those were before Bangladesh considered themselves a good enough team.
But after beating the likes of England, Sri Lanka and Australia, they expected to fare better in South Africa, to compete and break a bit of sweat in the opposition line-up. None of that materialized as they collapsed in a familiar manner. Now, the three-match ODI series is crucial to Bangladesh. They need to compete well and show the World that they have grown from the time they were introduced to International cricket.
A place in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy in England, a quarter-final entry in the 2015 ODI World Cup all stand as testimony to the fact that Bangladesh have performed better in this format of cricket. Besides, they have Shakib-al-Hasan back in the line-up and things look rosier.
However, against a South African Invitation XI led by JP Duminy and boasting of AB de Villiers, Bangladesh put up another sorry display, losing by six wickets eventually. Opting to bat first for a change, Bangladesh collapsed to 63/4 and despite Shakib and Sabbir Rahman notching up half-centuries, ended up on 255.
However, worryingly, South Africa lost no wickets till they reached 147 as Aiden Markram and under-19 star Matthew Breetzke stunned Bangladesh with a sizzling run a ball partnership. Duminy and de Villiers then eased the run chase as Bangladesh succumbed yet again, with most of their front-line bowlers going for more than six an over. That their best bowler was a part-timer, Mahmudullah, is probably the most worrying sign for Bangladesh.
Now, as they head in to meet the real men on 15th Bangladesh have a lot of work to be done in the background. Here we try to list in a few of them.
Feet movement and the swinging ball
The white cricket ball is not known to swing much these days, but in Kagiso Rabada, Wayne Parnell and Andile Phehlukwayo, South Africa have wonder-kids who can make the ball talk.
Bangladesh need to be prepared to play swing and move their feet better. In these conditions, there is always the threat of the short ball but they cannot wait for that and hang on the back foot.
Quick feet movement is something they need to work hard on. This can come only with hours of hard work in the nets and they will need to do plenty of that. One threat they will have to watch out for is Wayne Parnell with the new ball. The left-arm seamer, although mightily inconsistent, is capable of swinging the ball back into the right-handers and Bangladesh’s right-handers need to be wary of that.
Rabada, on the other hand, can seam, swing and bounce and is a constant threat from one end. If they can work him around for quick ones and twos and disrupt the rhythm of the pacer, half the job is done. But confidence in oneself is critical to handling these pace bowlers and that confidence can only stem if they put in the hard yards before the match.
The crucial middle-overs
The 15-40 over stage of One Day Internationals is heavily underestimated. There is always the talk of going bang bang in the powerplays and finishing off mightily at the end, but few talk on how to handle the biggest number of overs that reside in the middle period.
It is this period of play that separates the T20 hitters from the smart One Day International players. The period of play that the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Rohit Sharma, Joe Root and Steven Smith cherish.
Bangladesh need to street smart and ensure that they keep the scoreboard ticking during this passage of play. It isn’t necessary to take on one of the World’s best leggies, Imran Tahir, to boost the run-rate. They can very well wait for the looseners and until then work around the ones and the twos.
How the senior players – Shakib-al-Hasan, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim – go about their job and guide the talented youngsters will be critical during this period. They can choose to go berserk and perish or play smart and wait to launch an attack until the 40th over. But to do that they need enough wickets in hand by the time the death overs arrive.
Banking on their strengths
Instead of expecting their pace bowlers to suddenly step up and deliver just because the conditions favour them, Bangladesh can try to choke the Proteas with their weakness, spin bowling.
In the practise match, Mahmudullah, a part-timer, got rid of JP Duminy and AB de Villiers and bowled four tight overs. Bangladesh need to rely on Shakib-al-Hasan’s accuracy and Mehidy Hasan’s wile to choke the run flow in the middle period where South Africa play exceptionally well.
Spin is their weakness and putting a leash on their batsmen with spinners is only logical. They can also use Mustafizur Rehman’s cutters in the middle period and the death since he isn’t very effective with the new ball anyway. With pitches no longer as quick as they once used to be, the spinners will have a vital role to play in Bangladesh’s search for a win.