Smith ton seals nine-wicket win
Subcontinental conditions and the presence of three left-arm spinners did nothing to scare off the South Africans as their openers, Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs, added a century opening stand to help them go 1-0 up in the three-match series with a comprehensive nine-wicket win in Chittagong. Smith led the way emphatically, sealing the victory - with more than 13 overs to spare - and his seventh ODI hundred with the last scoring stroke of the match.
The only player to show any sign of resistance for Bangladesh was Tamim Iqbal, who top scored with a measured 82. That the second-highest contribution was a mere 15 - shared among three batsmen - only highlighted the bridge between him and the rest. The target of 179 was perhaps 100 short of challenging a team which has its sights set on displacing Australia as the best ODI team in the world.
After a disappointing Test series, Bangladesh would have fancied their chances against a new-look South African one-day line-up, which is missing Jacques Kallis, Mahkaya Ntini and Mark Boucher. Andre Nel and Paul Harris, though, gave little away and shared five wickets between them to bundle out Bangladesh for a paltry total after losing the toss.
The South African opening bowlers exploited whatever little juice there was on a pitch which was expected to play slow and low. Nel and Charl Langeveldt bent their backs and got several deliveries to fizz past the left-handers.
Bangladesh's batting worries started in the eighth over, when a circumspect Junaid fell to a miscued pull off Langeveldt. Nel joined in the act soon after, getting his 100th ODI wicket with the dismissal of Shahriar Nafees, caught behind after attempting one poke too many. Mohammad Ashraful and Shakib Al Hasan fell tamely, and by the halfway stage of the innings, it was an all-too-familiar top-order wobble for Bangladesh.
They were fortunate to have Tamim hold one end up and keep the South Africans at bay. Tamim was fluent with his off-side strokes and began his innings with a punch through extra cover off the second ball of the day. He was particularly strong against the short deliveries, which sat up nicely for him to cut or pull.
He looked set for a century but the going got tougher once the spinners, Harris and Johan Botha, operated in tandem. Harris got appreciable turn from the rough outside off, which Tamim managed to fend off. He finally broke the shackles by punching one through the covers to end a boundary drought which had lasted eight overs.
A bowling change in the 35th over gave the muted crowd something to cheer, as Tamim bludgeoned a JP Duminy full toss past extra cover, followed by a slog sweep for six over deep midwicket. Tamim chanced his arm the next over against Harris but failed to get the desired elevation over long-on, giving Morkel a sitter. He walked back for an impressive 82, though his dismissal went against the run of play. The lower order failed to push on after Tamim's departure, and it was hard to expect an inexperienced lower order - there were three debutants in the line-up - to repair the damage.
The one-dimensional bowling attack proved Bangladesh's biggest weakness. The intention of packing the side with spinners seemed a good one given the slow nature of the surface, but the bowlers failed to extract the sort of turn that South Africa's left-arm spinner, Harris, had managed earlier.
Ashraful, the Bangladesh captain, curiously decided against giving the new ball to Shahadat Hossain, and instead handed it to Abdur Razzak, the senior-most of the left-arm spinners. Smith and Gibbs used the pace of Razzak's skiddy deliveries to nudge boundaries to third man, while anything full outside off was pierced through the infield on the off. Mosharraf Hossain, the debutant left-arm spinner, hardly got any turn, while Shahadat's introduction in the 20th over too failed to break the monotony as Smith greeted him with a fierce pull, before Gibbs caressed one wide of mid-on.
Smith brought up his half-century with a streaky edge past the keeper. Gibbs changed gear after a patient start and regularly waltzed down the track to the spinners, bringing up his fifty with a loft over extra cover off Mosharraf. At 66, Smith got the benefit of the doubt over a contentious catch by Shahadat at short third man, which was referred to the third umpire. Shakib broke through soon after, trapping Gibbs in front with one that kept a little low, but that was Bangladesh's only success in the field.
Hashim Amla, playing his first ODI, joined Smith after an opening stand of 143 and the pair completed the formalities. Smith jumped down the track to Shakib and a loft over mid-on brought up his ton, a big smile, and revenge after Bangladesh had surprised them in the World Cup less than a year ago.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a staff writer at Cricinfo