Bangladesh bank on spinners against new-look South Africa
Since taking over the Bangladesh captaincy in June 2007, Mohammad Ashraful has yet to taste victory in a one-day international, with the losing streak extending to six since an excellent World Cup in the Caribbean. Now, after enduring another whitewash in the Tests against South Africa, Ashraful and his inexperienced one-day outfit will seek inspiration from the performance of the BCB XI, who forced a thrilling tie against the South Africans on Friday at the Chittagong Divisional Stadium, the same venue for the first one-dayer which begins on Sunday.
With the likes of Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini being rested for the one-dayers, the BCB XI spinners managed to tie down a new-look South African one-day line-up. Mosharraf Hossain, the left-arm spinner who is also in the one-day squad, justified his inclusion with 3 for 19 in eight economical overs while Rubel Hossain, the right-arm seamer, sealed the tie with a tight final over.
Spin has always been Bangladesh's potent weapon at home and it was hardly surprising that Ashraful hinted at continuing with the policy of fielding a three-pronged left-arm spin attack, with Mosharraf stepping into the shoes of the recently-retired Mohammad Rafique. Abdur Razzak and Shakib Al Hasan complete the trio.
"Playing three spinners in the one-dayers is certainly an option for us," Ashraful said on the eve of the match. "Our spinners have often troubled batsmen not used to the spinning ball. We have a very young team, since we are looking to build a team for the future, especially with the 2011 World Cup in mind, which will be played on the subcontinent. Spinners will play a key role."
A certain debutant for Bangladesh will be Dhiman Ghosh, the 20-year-old wicketkeeper who was drafted in to replace the struggling Mushfiqur Rahim. Aftab Ahmed's absence for the one-dayers due to injury could hand Nazimuddin an opportunity. Nazimuddin, who was part of the ICC World Twenty20 squad last year, has an aggressive batting style similar to Aftab's.
The South Africans will be mindful of Bangladesh's strengths, especially after the previous encounter between the two sides, in which Bangladesh pulled off a surprise win at the World Cup. South Africa have the added incentive of reclaiming the No.1 ranking from Australia if they sweep the series 3-0.
Their experimental one-day line-up includes Test specialists Hashim Amla and Paul Harris, the left-arm spinner. Harris is likely to partner offspinner Johan Botha, should they opt for two spinners. That eventuality could see one of the specialist seamers making way. Charl Langeveldt looks an automatic selection, based on his one-day record, as does the in-form Dale Steyn. Albie Morkel, the seam bowling allrounder, might well get the nod ahead of Andre Nel to reduce the length of their tail.
AB de Villiers will take over the wicketkeeping duties from Boucher and could bat in the middle order, with Herschelle Gibbs making a return. Alviro Peterson, the Lions opening batsman, has a chance to impress, though he is likely to bat down the order.
Bangladesh 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Junaid Siddique, 3 Nazimuddin, 4 Shahriar Nafees, 5 Mohammad Ashraful (capt), 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Dhiman Ghosh (wk), 8 Abdur Razzak, 9 Mosharraf Hossain, 10 Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, 11 Shahadat Hossain.
South Africa 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Herschelle Gibbs, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 JP Duminy, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Alviro Peterson, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Johan Botha, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Paul Harris, 11 Charl Langeveldt.