Bangladesh fight back on bowlers' day
Mornè Morkel, with a five-for in his second Test, and Dale Steyn were the destroyers as Bangladesh were knocked over for 192 soon after tea on the opening day, but a stirring fightback inspired by Shahadat Hossain and Mohammad Rafique left the match intriguing poised when play was called off with eight overs still to be bowled. By then, South Africa had stumbled to 76 for 4, with Ashwell Prince and Johan Botha holding fort on a pitch that was already showing signs of misbehaving.
The key wicket, as is so often the case when South Africa play, was that of Jacques Kallis. Having repeatedly exposed his stumps to the probing left-arm spin of Rafique, he had no answer when one turned and kept appallingly low. At one stage, with Hashim Amla and Kallis adding 35, it looked as though South Africa had overcome the early Shahadat-induced wobble, but Rafique accounted for Amla as well, trapping him plumb in front with one that came in with the arm.
Graeme Smith had inside-edged one on to his leg stump and Neil McKenzie, opening in place of the dropped Herschelle Gibbs, was rapped in front by one that angled back in. Shahadat bowled an inspired spell, and could have had Kallis as well, but a muted appeal when the ball struck pad before bat didn't quite convince the umpire.
The batting debacle took the sheen off a superb bowling display from South Africa's callow pace bowlers. Steyn, so devastating during the home season, dealt the first blows. Spot on with his first ball of the match, 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 success, as Junaid Siddique hung his bat out at one that slanted across him, and Mark Boucher dived across 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 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 Mohammad 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 fours before impetuously whacking a lofted delivery straight back to the bowler. That left Bangladesh in disarray at 82 for 5, with Aftab Ahmad and Shakib Al Hasan having to shoulder the post-lunch burden.
They did so for well over an hour, with a combination of pluck and luck. Shakib started with a gorgeous straight drive off Ntini, and followed up with two more crisp strokes through the off side. There were hints of inexperience too, though, with an ill-judged paddle sweep off Botha barely missing the stumps off the inside edge.
Aftab had eschewed his normal flamboyance to knuckle down, but as the session wore on, the frustration became palpable. Something had to give, and it did with Aftab playing an appalling shot to Botha after having got to 44. Ntini took the catch at mid-off, and South Africa soon had much more to celebrate.
His departure appeared to upset Shakib's composure too, and when Morkel angled one across, he edged to a wide second slip where AB de Villiers held on to a sharp chance. Rafique lasted just one ball, with Steve Bucknor taking an age to raise the finger after a thick inside edge on to the pad. Crucially though, Mashrafe Mortaza, with a breezy 29, and Mushfiqur Rahim added 40 for the ninth wicket before Morkel and Steyn returned to scatter stumps.
At that stage, it was very much South Africa's day, but the 24 overs before stumps suggested that repeating their success in Pakistan last October may not be so straightforward after all.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo