Tigers go down without a fight
The cricket from each side was pretty consistent over the four days and 83 minutes of the first Test between South Africa and Bangladesh. While South Africa played 'spotless' cricket as described by captain Faf du Plessis and kept putting their opposition under pressure, Bangladesh's performance was characterised by lack of fight and self-belief throughout, culminating in the abject surrender of the last seven wickets for just 41 runs and losing by 333 runs on the fifth morning at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom.
There is now little time to turn the corner, and evidently little will, before the next Test starts in Bloemfontein from October 6.
In chase of an unlikely 424 to win or a more likely but still improbable 98 overs to bat out for a draw, Bangladesh capitulated for just 90 runs in less than an hour and a half since skipper Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad had resumed with the score on 49 for three. It is Bangladesh's joint fifth-lowest score and their first sub-100 total since being bowled out for 62 by Sri Lanka in July 2007.
The rot started as early as two overs into the day when, in the 18th over, a snorter from Kagiso Rabada had Mushfiqur fending away from the body for Hashim Amla to take a sharp, overhead catch at slip. The captain's departure for a 55-ball 16 with the score reading 55 for four started a procession of Bangladesh batsmen to and from the dressing room. Mahmudullah followed seven runs later, chopping onto his stumps for the second time in the match and giving Rabada his second wicket. Liton Das's review when he shouldered arms to a Rabada ball swinging into middle and leg was symptomatic of the blind optimism that was on display in the fourth evening when he said that Bangladesh had never been out of the match, and in both cases the optimism proved to be unfounded.
Sabbir did as Sabbir does -- batting on four he tried to knock the cover off the ball but his sweep missed completely and gave left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj his second wicket of the innings. A sharp turner from the same bowler trapped Taskin Ahmed in front to bring Bangladesh down to 71 for eight, and four runs later Shafiul Islam's run out just underlined the confusion in the ranks. Mehedi Hasan Miraz hung around to inch the score towards hundred, but Maharaj ended the contest when Mustafizur Rahman offered him a simple return catch to give the spinner his fourth wicket.
Although the batting will be in focus for the fifth-day debacle, all-round it was one of Bangladesh's worst performances in recent memory. The Test had started with Mushfiqur's inexplicable decision to field first on a flat track, after which South Africa piled on 496 for three. On a pitch that batsman Sabbir Rahman had described as resembling a Chittagong wicket, the batsmen -- apart from Mominul Haque, who scored 77 off 150 -- then seemed to have no confidence in their ability to stay at the wicket and score runs as they were bundled out for 320.
Such was the inefficacy of Bangladesh's bowling and captaincy that they could take just nine South African wickets across both innings as the home side played risk-free cricket and declared for the second time in the match after scoring 247 for seven in just 56 overs. Three of those wickets were taken by part-time left-arm spinner Mominul, as halfway through the innings Mushfiqur had seemingly given up, judging by the defensive fields set and the bowlers used.
The tourists' mental disarray was obvious on the fourth afternoon after South Africa's declaration when, after Tamim Iqbal was bowled by Morne Morkel for a duck in the first over, Mominul discussed with Imrul Kayes and decided against reviewing a leg-before decision that was quite obviously sliding down leg. If the batsmen's lack of belief in their ability to spend time out in the middle played out just below the surface in the first innings, it took full bloom after those two wickets left Bangladesh on zero for two in their second essay. Imrul and Mushfiqur were liberal with their strokeplay in response to the crisis, and while Mushfiqur reined himself in after being bowled off a Morkel no-ball Imrul carried on unfettered after a dropped catch by Du Plessis at slip.
Given the manner of Bangladesh's batting in this Test, those reprieves were unlikely to have bothered South Africa much. Soon enough, Imrul was caught behind off Maharaj for 32, a dismissal that ushered in the tea break. The entire last session was washed out on the fourth day, without which the match would have ended inside four days.
On the fifth day, when the Tigers were eventually put out of their misery, there was rainfall about half an hour after when lunch would have been if the match was still ongoing. Clouds persisted even after the thunderstorm abated, so it is conceivable that if Bangladesh had showed a bit more gumption a draw could have been thought of. But that would have been a miscarriage of justice considering the performances of each team.