South Africa tighten chokehold on exciting day
A 53-year-old batting record broken, a maiden first-class double-century for a man back from the wilderness, a hostile spell that enthused life back into a dull affair, and two bowlers - one in his 20th Test, the other in his last - capturing 100 Test wickets: it all happened at the Chittagong Divisional Stadium. This also translated into another day of domination by South Africa who, backed by a total of 583 for 7, left Bangladesh limping at 60 for 3 by stumps.
Statistically the highlight of the day will remain the record 415-run opening partnership between Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie but, from a purist's perspective Shahadat Hossain's three-wicket burst after lunch, and the ensuing contest with Jaques Kallis, provided the first glimpse of competitive Test cricket in Chittagong. Unfortunately for the hosts, their batsmen could not replace Shahadat's enthusiasm and instead wilted against a hostile Dale Steyn.
The day began with plenty of buzz around the impending achievement - whether Smith and McKenzie could break the previous best opening stand of 413, between India's Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad, set against New Zealand in Chennai way back in 1956 . Another Indian duo, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, came close to breaking the mark in 2006 but fell just four runs short against Pakistan in Lahore. Having blunted Bangladesh for the entire first day, Smith and McKenzie were not about to miss this mark.
Smith slapped Shakib Al Hasan for a boundary in the opening over, and then took a single to get back on strike. He took another risky single off Mashrafe Mortaza to take South Africa to within three runs of the landmark. Two hurried singles equalled the record and the landmark came at 10:13 am local time on a warm morning when Smith tucked Shakib to square leg. It was truly a historic moment.
Smith fell soon after for 232, bowled around his legs trying to sweep Abdur Razzak. His inspired innings consumed just 277 balls and included 33 fours and a six.
It would be easy to say that McKenzie played second fiddle to his captain but this was a man looking to cement his place in the side and build on his first Test century in seven years. With Hashim Amla picking up the pace immediately, McKenzie remained in his zone. He found the gaps easily on both sides - deep midwicket came to a conventional midwicket and McKenzie beat the man with effortless sweeps; three men hovered in the covers and he beat them by driving inside-out.
About 30 minutes before lunch, another flowing cover drive for three brought him his first score of over 200 in any form of cricket. Off came the cap, up went the arms and there was a huge smile on McKenzie's face. He proceeded to indulge in further boundaries.
Matters looked rather miserable for Bangladesh when South Africa went into lunch at 509 for 1 but Shahadat's enthusiastic post-lunch spell breathed the contest. Having failed to take a wicket on day one, Bangladesh picked up four in quick time. Shahadat, who bowled just one over in the first session, used his ability to reverse-swing the ball quite well in an energetic spell. McKenzie (226) dragged back onto his stumps attempting a dab to third man, Amla was trapped in front of leg by one that bent in, and Ashwell Prince came and went for 2 with a poor attempt at a cut. For good measure, AB de Villiers misjudged Shakib's length and was beaten by a skidder.
South Africa had lost four wickets for ten runs in the most frenetic passage of this Test. Cue the first compelling contest of the game. In a gripping 25 minutes Shahadat bowled a telling spell to Kallis, who matched him shot for shot. Shahadat swung the ball off tight lengths and slipped in accurate yorkers and Kallis met each with the confidence of a 116-Test pro.
Eschewing the big shots, Kallis used firm defence to deny Bangladesh any further wickets. He made sure to stretch well forward when working deliveries into the leg-side spaces and his back-foot technique was spot on. Apart from Shahadat the attack remained rather toothless but Kallis was determined to grind out the session. Mark Boucher, another warhorse with an appetite for a scrap, provided good support in a 55-run partnership. Mohammad Rafique snapped up the two wickets needed to become the first Bangladeshi to 100 wickets and South Africa declared on 583 for 7.
Bangladesh's openers were left to negotiate 17 overs till stumps and what a hostile time it proved to be. Junaid Siddique was peppered by Dale Steyn - clocking the early140ks on three successive short ones - and even took one on the helmet. A snorter clattered into the back of Tamim Iqbal's head and having wafted at the next two deliveries, a dazed Tamim fell to a stinger of a catch by de Villiers at third slip. Mohammad Ashraful gloved his first ball, a ripper down leg stump, and Bangladesh were left 523 runs in arrears.
Under the canopy of a big total, Steyn ran in and completely rattled the top order. His hostility was in keeping with the domination of the batsmen, but what really stood out was the pace he generated on a lifeless surface. He denied the openers width and mixed short with full to keep them wary. This is a young fast bowler on the verge of greatness and his fiery spell was yet another stellar performance in a season of excellence. It summed up the difference between the two sides.
South Africa have done enough to ensure they won't bat again, and now the bowlers can look to maintain the pressure.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo