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Match Preview – South Africa vs Bangladesh, Bangladesh in South Africa 2021/22, 2nd Test

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It’s Gqeberha, with a hard click at the start and a guttural “gha” at the end, that’s the venue for the last dance of the South African summer. Where, you ask? The place with the oldest cricket ground in the country but the newest name.

Formerly known as Port Elizabeth, the city was renamed last year, but not much else has changed. It’s still about life in the slow lane in this part of the country, with the whistling of a strong wind for company. It’s been blowing fiercely in the lead up to the match, almost enough to match the fury within the Bangladesh camp.

The visitors are angry with everyone, from the umpires for the eight decisions that needed to be overturned in Durban to the hosts for what they called an unacceptable level of sledging throughout the tour. They’ve lodged an official complaint about both, but have since denied raising any issue about the verbals, which South Africa insist did not cross the line.

Bangladesh lost 14 wickets to spin on a surface that should have reminded them of home and were bowled out for their second-lowest total in Test cricket. This despite being so competitive for four full days of the match. After coups like their win in New Zealand and their ODI series victory here, Bangladesh know they are better than 53 all out and will want to use the second Test to show that.

They could ask for no better place to play it than the home of their head coach, Russell Domingo, who successfully coached the Warriors franchise, based at St George’s Park, and never lost a Test here in his time with South Africa. It hasn’t hosted a Test match since January 2020, but it will return with all the usual bells and whistles. The brass band is back after their Covid-19 hiatus and a capacity of 7,500 is allowed. Although attendance is not usually that high, for South Africans who have been deprived of live sport for the last two years, it’s the perfect opportunity to see the national team up close before they head on away assignments over the winter.

South Africa can probably already call this Test season a success after a home series win against India and a drawn series in New Zealand but will not want to slip up after seizing the advantage in Durban. Speaking of, they’ve already had one accident this week. Dean Elgar fell when getting out of the shower a few days ago and hit his head badly enough to require stitches. The cut is above his right eye, roughly where his helmet might sit, but he batted on the eve of the match and “seems to be okay”, to lead the side.

Even with an under-strength squad – five first-choice South Africa players are at the IPL – Elgar has managed to establish his style of play. “Ruthless,” was how he described it in Durban and he will want nothing less than to seal a series sweep.

Form guide

South Africa WWLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Bangladesh LLWLL

In the spotlight

Simon Harmer surged back onto the international scene with a four-for in his first Test innings and showed the progress he has made as an attacking bowler since last playing Tests in 2015. He was humble in his success and said the return did not necessarily prove his worth but after finishing the match with seven wickets may have adjusted that opinion. Still, Harmer remains a support act to Keshav Maharaj, especially as South Africa seldom play two spinners in a Test XI and a big performance on his former home ground could go a long way to ensuring he is part of the squad that tours England this winter, and maybe even stakes a claim for the lone spinner spot, on occasion.

Since he last played in South Africa in 2017 where he impressed with a score of 70 in Bloemfontein, Litton Das has become one of Bangladesh’s most dependable batters. He was the leading run-scorer for Bangladesh in 2021, with 594 from seven Tests at an average of 49.50 and is the top batter in 2022 so far, with 239 runs from three innings. His 41 at Kingsmead was a good mix of conservative batting and counter-attack and he shared in their most profitable partnership of the match, 82, with Mahmudul Hasan Joy, but will want to push on to bigger things in Gqerberha.

Team news

South Africa are unlikely to make any changes to the batting line-up but may look at one in the bowling department. Despite being the most experienced member of the pace pack, Duanne Olivier has failed to set the stage alight and could be benched for Lutho Sipamla, who is from this city and played his early years of domestic cricket here.

South Africa (probable): 1 Dean Elgar (capt), 2 Sarel Erwee, 3 Keegan Petersen, 4 Ryan Rickleton, 5 Temba Bavuma, 6 Kyle Verreynne (wk), 7 Wiaan Mulder 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Simon Harmer, 10 Lizaad Williams 11 Lutho Sipamla

Tamim Iqbal has recovered from the stomach ailment that kept him out of the first Test and is expected to replace Shadman Islam at the top of the other. With both Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam out of the series with injury, either Abu Jayed or Shohidul Islam will play.

Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Mahmudul Hasan Joy, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Mominul Haque (capt), 5 Mushfiqur Rahim, 6 Yasir Ali, 7 Litton Das (wk), 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Abu Jayed/Shohidul Islam, 10 Khaled Hossain, 11 Ebadot Hossain

Pitch and conditions

Never mind the surface – which had a healthy grass covering two days before the Test match but will get a trim before the first ball – it’s the air that’s a major factor in Gqeberha. Westerly Winds of around 50kph have been blowing in the lead-up to the match. That’s the drying wind, which usually means it will be good for batting, but the direction will change from the first day of the match, bringing moisture but, with autumn temperatures hovering in the low 20 C, there’s unlikely to be the humidity for swing. Rain is forecast for the first three days, with the third day the most likely to be severely affected. There’s an 80% chance of showers on Sunday but by early next week, conditions are expected to clear so this Test could go the distance.

Stats and trivia

  • Mushfiqur Rahim needs 127 runs to reach 5,000 Test runs, while Tamim Iqbal needs 212.
  • South Africa have lost their last two matches at St George’s Park, to England and Sri Lanka.
  • Quotes

    “The wind plays a massive factor here at St George’s. If the wind is coming over the scoreboard, they call it the swing wind. And it might assist the bowlers. If the wind comes through the gap between the change room and the stand, it’s a swirling wind, which plays a massive part with the ball when it goes up in the air and with catching. The wind is also a factor with batters because it tends to blow you a bit over your front foot and gets you to go across the ball a little bit.”
    South Africa captain Dean Elgar explains there’s more to the Gqeberha wind than just figuring out which bowler has to run into it.

    Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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