Having failed to take advantage of favourable batting conditions in the first Test, Bangladesh have a chance to make amends against the least experienced bowling line-up South Africa have fielded in many years in the second and final Test.
But conditions are likely to be more bowler-friendly at Mangaung Oval on Friday (October 6) and, on the evidence of Potchefstroom, Bangladesh might be ill-equipped to counter even a South African attack stripped of four front-line fast bowlers because of injury.
Morne Morkel could not finish the first Test because of a side strain, adding to a casualty list that already had Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Chris Morris.
That left Kagiso Rabada, 22, as the leader of the attack. His tally of 92 wickets in 21 Tests dwarfs those of his likely pace partners, Duanne Olivier (13 in four Tests), Wayne Parnell (13 in five) and Andile Phehlukwayo, who took a single wicket in his debut appearance in Potchefstroom.
Balanced against that is the emergence of left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, who is being hailed as South Africa’s best spin bowler of the modern era. Maharaj picked up seven wickets in Potchefstroom to take his total to 50 in just 12 Tests.
Bangladesh too, have suffered a big blow with the experienced Tamim Iqbal, who scored 39 and a duck in Potchefstroom, being ruled out of the contest with a thigh injury. Tamim has a torn muscle in his left thigh and could be out for up to one month, which puts his participation in the three-match One Day International series also in doubt.
Despite a convincing 333-run win in the first Test, Faf du Plessis was unequivocal in calling for a pitch with more pace and bounce. “When you play countries like Bangladesh it is important to get whatever you can (in conditions) to get an advantage,” he said in the lead up to the second Test.
Weather conditions, though, could play a role. South Africa only recently emerged from winter and Bloemfontein, 280 kilometres from Potchefstroom, is similarly susceptible to cold overnight and early morning conditions, which affect grass growth and pitch preparation.
In the only first-class match played at Mangaung Oval this season, 11 wickets fell on the first day, but only another nine went down while 1010 runs were scored on the next three.
Bangladesh’s misreading of conditions in Potchefstroom was extraordinary for a team with an experienced player in Mushfiqur Rahim, the captain, and a coaching staff headed by Chandika Hathurusinghe and Courtney Walsh.
Not only did Rahim pass up the opportunity to bat first in ideal conditions after winning the toss, but Bangladesh picked only one spin bowler in Mehedi Hasan. Their three seam bowlers, with the exception of Mustafizur Rahman, were largely ineffective on an easy-pace pitch.
Taijul Islam, whose 54 Test wickets are the most of any member of the touring squad, would probably have been more effective and may well be picked for Bloemfontein, even if conditions are not spin-friendly.
Probable Playing XI:
Faf du Plessis (capt), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Keshav Maharaj, Andile Phehlukwayo, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier.
Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Sabbir Rahman, Mahmudullah, Mominul Haque, Liton Das (wk), Mehedi Hasan/ Taijul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam/ Subashis Roy.