Friday, February 22, 2008

South Africa rocked Bangladesh on 1st day

Dale Steyn's pace delivered the initial breakthroughs before Mornè Morkel took over, and a wicket for Johan Botha in his opening over ensured a miserable morning for Bangladesh at the National Stadium in Mirpur. Mohammad Ashraful had batted beautifully for 34, but the impetuous streak that has so often been his undoing came to the fore again 10 minutes before lunch to leave his side in an abject position at 85 for 5.

Ashraful had decided to bat first on a hard pitch with a dark-grey tinge, but it took South Africa just two balls to push Bangladesh on to the back foot. Steyn was spot on with his first ball, and the second looped back to his left after Tamim Iqbal had inside edged on to his pad. Steyn reacted smartly on his follow through to hold on.

In his next over, more damage was done, with Junaid Siddique hanging his bat out at one that slanted across him. Mark Boucher dived across Graeme Smith at first slip to hold on to the catch. More uncomfortable moments followed, with Makhaya Ntini and Steyn testing the batsmen with short deliveries, but Shahriar Nafees gave the crowd some solace with a crisp pull and square-drive off Steyn.

Habibul Bashar pulled Ntini for a boundary, but looked out of sorts otherwise, and the introduction of Morkel sent him speedily in the direction of the pavilion. Considering that he's a former captain and the most senior batsman in the side, it was a wretched shot, a nothing waft outside off stump, and Neil McKenzie held a low chance in front of him at a wide third slip.

Stodgy defiance hasn't been a characteristic of Bangladeshi batting in recent times, and Ashraful's approach when he arrived at the crease was indicative of a cavalier mindset. An edge for four got him going, and when Morkel then pitched too full, he clipped one effortlessly through midwicket for four.

Ntini has seldom been a factor on subcontinent pitches, and Ashraful capitalised on his more predictable offerings with a superb square-drive and a meaty pull. At the other end, Nafees was alternately watchful and attacking before Morkel turned out to be too good for him.

A full delivery was driven superbly through the covers, but the next ball angled across and deviated away. The hesitant push flew to Smith, and South Africa had four wickets for just 60.

Ashraful continued undaunted, lacing a couple of lovely drives, but Botha's introduction on the stroke of lunch proved a masterstroke. Ashraful drove and cut for two fours, but when Botha then tossed up up, Ashraful's drive flew right back to him.

Had Shakib Al Hasan been given leg before following a vociferous shout soon after, Bangladesh's plight would have been even worse. As it was, another pummelling loomed, against a South African side that appears to have worked out subcontinent conditions [they won in Pakistan last October] better than some of their predecessors.

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