JOHANNESBURG – Given how they’ve fared so far on this South African tour, Bangladesh would not appear to be capable of providing too significant a challenge for the Proteas when the three-match one-day international series begins in Kimberley on Sunday.
The home side’s players have been talking up the tourists, trying to show them the necessary respect.
Following on from Imran Tahir on Thursday, it was David Miller’s turn yesterday to hype up the visitors, talking about what a good ODI side they are because they’ve been capable of upsetting some of the bigger teams previously.
Whatever they’ve done in the past has had little bearing on how they’ve played on this tour, however. They’ve been awful.
The return of Shakib Al-Hasan may prove uplifting – those seeking a contest must certainly hope so.
But the Bangladeshis look downtrodden, their skipper Mushfiqur Rahim is distracted and appeared disheartened in Bloemfontein last week, and they have not adapted to conditions in this country, even though the pitches have been placid by South African norms.
So, rather like the Test matches, the onus is on South Africa, as new coach Ottis Gibson put it, to set their own standard.
Of the opening batsmen, Hashim Amla has been in good early season form, making two centuries in the Test series, while Quinton de Kock had a neat cameo before South Africa declared in Bloemfontein last week.
Captain Faf du Plessis made a hundred in the second Test as well, but then it gets more intriguing as far as judging the form of the middle order batsmen.
Miller, who will become the 22nd South African player to earn 100 ODI caps, has played all three matches for the Knights in the Sunfoil Series, but has just one half-century to show for his efforts.
For one who is trying to draw the selectors’ attention to his first class credentials, that’s a poor return, especially considering how batsmen have feasted in the opening rounds of the four-day competition.
Still, Miller remains a key component of the Proteas’ limited overs teams with his clean hitting a powerful weapon in the latter stages of an innings.
At least Miller has had some proper game time, something which can’t be said for the other two occupants of the middle-order, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy.
The now former Proteas one-day captain has played just two senior matches in the last three-and-a-half months, so rustiness may still be an issue, while Duminy’s only game in the last three months was Thursday’s affair in Bloemfontein, where he captained an Invitation XI to a six-wicket victory over Bangladesh, scoring 34 and bowling four overs.
Between them Miller, De Villiers and Duminy have played nearly 500 ODIs, and that level of experience is crucial as South Africa start the building process ahead of the next World Cup.
There will be more experimenting over the course of the season, particularly with the seam bowling all-rounders – three of whom, Andile Phehlukwayo, Wayne Parnell and Dwaine Pretorius, are in the squad for this series, and especially in the case of Phehlukwayo and Pretorius as they continue to settle in at international level.