Day 2 of 5
South Africa 496/3 declared
POTCHEFSTROOM – The weather here may have suggested a bowling day – cloudy for the most part – but the Senwes Park pitch is not one that bowlers will hold much affection for.
There’s no swing, no seam movement, little bounce once the ball’s gone soft and even for the spinners there’s not been much on offer.
It’s certainly the very opposite of the type of surface the South African team asks for when they face sub-continent opponents, but the home team’s players have been understanding of the challenges the ground staff here have faced owing to the lack of rain in the region.
Hey, at least the South Africans read the pitch properly, something Bangladesh didn’t and for which they’re continuing to pay.
Morné Morkel and Kagiso Rabada’s extra pace and ability – with the new ball at least – to get bounce proved uncomfortable for the touring team’s openers, who were dismissed within the first 11 overs, having already had to take care with balls flying past their chests.
Faf du Plessis introduced Keshav Maharaj in the 14th over, and the cunning left-arm spinner caused plenty of problems and created chances which Dean Elgar failed to take.
South Africa need to give some serious thought to Elgar’s continued stay in the slips – especially for the spinner.
He struggled there in England too, and missed two chances on Friday – first dropping a relatively simple chance when Maharaj found the outside edge of Mushfiqur Rahim’s bat, and in the left-arm spinner’s next over, he was too slow to react when the Bangladesh captain again edged one that spun fractionally away from him.
The likes of Du Plessis and Hashim Amla have proved more than competent at slip and against better opponents, as was the case in England, and on pitches like this, so devoid of life, chances like the ones Elgar missed on Friday can prove to be match-changing.
For a while it looked like Mushfiqur would make the South Africans pay as he unleashed some delightful strokes, particularly against the seamers, on his way to a sprightly 44.
It was Maharaj who eventually gained reward – Elgar thankfully not involved – when Mushfiqur pushed hard at the ball, and it clipped off the inside edge to Aiden Markram at short-leg.
No further reward came the home team’s way, and Saturday will demand more hard work from them if they are to ensure a substantial lead – which currently stands at 369 runs – on the first innings.
Earlier, South Africa had clinically built their first innings throughout the morning, with Elgar and Amla looking completely at ease during their 215-run second wicket partnership.
Amla equalled Graeme Smith on 27 Test hundreds – the second-most for a South African batsman – and while Elgar was able to register his highest Test score, he was unable to add his name to the list of the country’s Test double centurions, which remains at 15.
For all his troubles at slip, Elgar’s value to the side remains undiminished owing to his consistency with the bat. His fourth hundred in 2017 also ensured he moved to within 34 runs of 1 000 for the year.