Bangladesh face toughest test at end of long season
Two teams with little in common are meeting at crossroads, one side coming to an end of a successful period, the other beginning a long journey. Contests between South Africa and Bangladesh in any format - save their World Cup meeting in 2007 - have not been much of a contest, but the home team's improvement will ensure the visitors are anything but complacent.
Bangladesh have had few breaks while playing four series and a World Cupin the last 12 months, and these two Twenty20 internationals, three ODIs and two Tests against South Africa will end their 2014-15 and 2015 seasons, which merged into one vast period, reports ESPNcricinfo.
They have two months off before hosting Australia in October.
South Africa, on the other hand, are touring Bangladesh for their first international assignment since losing the World Cup semi-final to New Zealand in March. Having had three months off, they begin with Bangladesh, before playing New Zealand at home, India away and England at home, before returning to India for the World T20 in March 2016. Between now and February, South Africa play 12 Tests, 16 ODIs and nine T20 internationals.
No wonder then that Dale Steyn thought his energy would be better spent elsewhere than in Bangladesh, but since the team arrived in Dhaka last week, his team-mates Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy have given their opponents' current form due credit.
Having had success in the subcontinent previously, South Africa are not the type to go easy on any opponent, and Bangladesh's victories over Pakistan and India would have hardened that approach.
Apart from a host brimming with confidence, South Africa will also have to contend with the heat and humidity of the Bangladesh summer, and Duminy said how well they take care of themselves physically could be critical to success. The T20Is start at 1300 local time.
South Africa are missing Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir for the T20Is, and will test an emerging attack comprising Kyle Abbott, David Wiese, Kagiso Rabada, Eddie Leie and Beuran Hendricks, along side Wayne Parnell. Steyn will play only the Tests, while AB de Villiers will play the T20s and ODIs before going on paternity leave.
They will be expected to dominate Bangladesh nonetheless, and unless there is an upset, the results are likely to receive a low-key response back in South Africa.
In Dhaka and Chittagong, though, interest in cricket - call it madness or frenzy too - is at an all-time high. It has peaked after the 2-1 victory in the ODIs against India, as evidenced by the rush for free seats during South Africa's warm-up match against a BCB XI in Fatullah.
Bangladesh's fans will do anything to get a glimpse.
The captain Mashrafe Mortaza and coach Chandika Hathurusingha have said that South Africa are likely to be tougher than Pakistan and India, not only because of their formidable away record, but also because Bangladesh are coming to the end of a long season.
The two Twenty20 internationals are the start of both sides build-ups to the 2016 World T20, and the ODIs that follow are of special importance to Bangladesh. They are all but through to the 2017 Champions Trophy, but one victory against South Africa will cast their qualification in stone.
The T20 and ODI series will also be the first under the ICC's new playing conditions for limited-overs games - no mandatory catchers in the first ten overs of an ODI, no batting Powerplay, five fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle in the last ten overs of an ODI, and free-hits for all kinds of no-balls.
Bangladesh have expressed happiness with many of these changes, and it remains to be seen how the teams adjust to them.