Not reputation, not rankings, not even rain could stop Bangladesh from bounding to a first bilateral series win over South Africa and a fourth successive series triumph at home. They dominated South Africa in every department: restricting them to a total of under 200 and then romping to the target themselves, with 13.5 overs to spare.
On the way, Shakib al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza both picked up their 200th ODI wicket, Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar posted the best partnership for Bangladesh against South Africa – 154 – and Sarkar scored the fastest fifty for a Bangladesh batsman against South Africa, off 41 balls. South Africa could only watch and wonder how Bangladesh seemed to be playing on a complete different surface to the slow, strangling one that had snared them earlier.
South Africa’s top-order struggled against the shrewd approach from Bangladesh’s bowlers, who collectively put in another disciplined performance. Only JP Duminy and David Miller had some measure of conditions with 63 runs for the fifth wicket. Duminy went on to a half-century but there were little resistance from anyone else, particularly the recognised batsmen.
Quinton de Kock’s failure to find form extended to another innings. Mustafizur Rahman found his leg stump with a full delivery that angled in and evaded de Kock, as he tried to play to mid-wicket.
Shakib was introduced in the sixth over and immediately caused problems for South Africa’s most experienced pair. Neither Hashim Amla nor Faf du Plessis adjusted to the pitch of the ball, but du Plessis was the first to try to counterattack. His attempted sweep resulted in a top-edge.
Four overs later, Shakib should have had Amla as well. Amla played a similar to du Plessis’, but Sabbir Rahman, who had to backpedal from mid-off to judge the catch, could not hold on. Shakib was not denied for too long though. In his next over, Amla was caught behind to become Shakib’s 200th ODI wicket.
Mahmudullah had Rilee Rossouw caught when he lost his balance trying to pull and South Africa were in trouble on 50 for 4 before Duminy and Miller dug in. Miller was more confident against spin and in his use of the sweep shot than he has been all series, and Duminy, realising the need to bat patiently, was happy to wait.
That was just as well, because the wait lasted two hours and 55 minutes as rain interrupted South Africa’s innings after 23 overs with the score on 78 for 4. When play resumed, Miller continued in his role as aggressor and until he hit Mortaza in the air and Sabbir made up for his earlier drop with a diving catch at backward point to give the captain his 200th.
Farhaan Behardien showed signs of the fight he displayed in the second match, but holed out off Shakib as South Africa looked to accelerate. Sabbir, stationed on the long-on boundary, caught the ball overhead, but seeing that the momentum would take him over the rope, threw it back in and then re-collected it once he was within the boundary. That left Duminy with the tailenders, who were unable to cope with the cutter from Mustafizur and the yorker from Rubel Hossain.
South Africa lost four wickets for 19 runs to leave their bowlers with a tough task, especially as they did not have their premier pace pack to pull it off. They have previously successfully defended just three totals lower than this – 129, 140 and 149 – and not even Morne Morkel’s inclusion could help them add 170 to that list.
Morkel bowled first change, behind Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada, and all the three could not find the right length or line to trouble Bangladesh. They were either too short or too full and almost always too straight.
Tamim delighted in riding the bounce to cut or leaning into the on-drive but Sarkar held the early controls. He took three successive boundaries off Rabada, all on the leg side, to bring Bangladesh’s fifty in the eighth over, before Amla turned to spin. Neither Imran Tahir nor Duminy caused any problems, instead presenting opportunity for the openers to charge down the track.
Sarkar’s fifty came off from a leg-side ball from Morkel, eased to short fine leg, which only opened him up for more expansive strokeplay: The cover drive off Tahir, the hoick over mid-wicket for the only six of the innings, the pull, the steer through the vacant slip cordon. Tamim, while being a spectator to all these, brought up his own fifty, off 70 balls, with a single.
As the result became a foregone conclusion, Tamim did his best to get Sarkar on strike in search of a century but Sarkar brought about his own downfall, chipping Tahir to short cover. Tamim, though, was on hand, along with Litton Das, to usher Bangladesh home and into the history books to conclude a limited-overs’ season to remember for a cricketing nation on the rise. (Courtesy Cricinfo)