Day 3 of 5:
South Africa 496/3 decl. and 54/2
South Africa may be in the ascendancy in this first Test, but this is not the kind of match they want to get dragged into against a side from the sub-continent.
The conditions at Senwes Park are just a little too familiar for their opponents, limited though they may be. The bounce off the pitch is low, the pace is slow and on Saturday when South Africa started its second innings, the Bangladeshis opened the bowling with spinner Mehidy Hasan.
That is not the kind of thing Faf du Plessis wants. Last summer when Sri Lanka toured there were grassy tracks at all three venues - including St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth - with the aim being to make life as difficult as possible for the team from the sub-continent. Touring is supposed to be tough, and when South Africa go to Sri Lanka, India or Bangladesh they are greeted by lifeless surfaces that aid spin.
They don’t want to accommodate the opposition’s strengths and at the same hinder their own. Had Mushfiqur Rahim had the courage to bat first upon winning the toss it would have been interesting to observe the mood of the South African team. As it is, Mushifiqur’s erroneous decision gave the Proteas an immediate advantage and with a big first innings total on the board Du Plessis was able to attack for an extended period.
The bowlers adapted well to conditions which they would not want to bowl in against these opponents and their patience on Saturday deserves credit.
Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada may have been inconsistent in their initial forays with the new ball on Friday, but on Saturday, their lines were tighter and their use of the short ball smarter.
Du Plessis utilised field placings normally employed in the sub-continent - at one point in the morning session three fielders were posted at shallow cover for the lofted drive - a shot usually the result of misjudgment on a slow pitch.
They certainly made the Bangladeshi batsmen work hard and Mominul Haque and Mahmudullah both underline their worth with half-centuries.
They were never able to score freely, and once South Africa made the breakthrough shortly after lunch when Maharaj removed Mominul for 77, the Proteas asserted themselves.
Duanne Olivier, bowled his best spell of the game, a sharp burst full of short balls and got a wicket, and Morkel and Rabada returned with the second new ball - and with a bit of help from a brilliantly athletic piece of fielding by Temba Bavuma ran through the lower order.
Maharaj wrapped up the innings after tea picking up his third wicket to finish as the most successful bowler.
South Africa stretched its lead to 230 by the time bad light had stopped play just before 5pm and the plan will be to add at least another 120 runs on Sunday morning before asking Bangladesh to bat again.
Of course a close eye will be kept on the pitch. It’s started out very sub-continental in nature and if it stays true to that character it should start breaking up on Sunday, making Maharaj a central figure as the match unfolds.
It may not be the methodology they want to use on home-soil - and it’s certainly not something they will want to employ when India tour here later this summer.,but if it helps them win this Test they won’t care about how they’ve done it.