Nel and de Villiers star in series win
South Africa came one step closer to usurping Australia as the No. 1 one-day side in the world with a comfortable seven-wicket victory in Mirpur. Andre Nel scythed through Bangladesh's top order after they chose to bat and though the tourists suffered a wobble of their own, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy sealed the series with a battling 119-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Bar a record fifth-wicket stand of 119 between Shakib Al Hasan and Raqibul Hasan, which proved the bulk of a poor 173 in 48.2 overs, there was little the hosts could take out of their 13th defeat on the trot.
Bangladesh had little answer to Nel, who took out his anger at not being included on the upcoming tour to India with a fiery opening burst. Tamim Iqbal was bowled third ball, Mohammad Ashraful fell hooking for 0, and Shahriar Nafees went fishing outside off stump. But unlike their trigger-happy top-order team-mates, Shakib and Raqibul, in his second game, complimented each other excellently with smart shots and sensible running.
Having seen off the nasty Nel, Shakib - who crossed 1000 ODI runs - and Raqibul picked easy runs to revive their side from 18 for 4. From the time spin was introduced, Shakib was down the track, trying to create room and get on top of the opposition. The new ball deviated but with the spinners achieving little from the surface, the duo was able to come onto the front foot and drive comfortably.
Raqibul's maiden fifty came up from 78 balls in the 31st over and the 100-partnership followed in the next. Rather than try and blast the part-time bowlers out of the park, Shakib and Raqibul milked them for easy singles and the run-rate inched higher.
Another collapse followed, however, as Smith called back Charl Langevelt in the 36th over. Raqibul chipped to mid-off for 63 and the lower order flopped against Nel's accuracy. Some rejuvenated fielding limited Bangladesh to five less than they made in the series opener. South Africa needed one substantial partnership to see them home to a target of 174 but Bangladesh's bowlers made it a bit tougher than perhaps expected. Herschelle Gibbs failed again and Hashim Amla was cut off just as he began to look good and the biggest blow was losing the in-form Smith.
Trying to drive at one pitched into the rough outside off stump, Smith could only drag the ball back on after it brushed his pads. Adbur Razzak kept it full and flat and the fielders were appealing whenever the ball hit the pad. Surprisingly, Ashraful took off Razzak soon after and spread his field. With an inexperienced lower order to follow, South Africa should have been forced on the back foot but they were allowed easy singles.
de Villiers and Duminy's modus operandi was essentially the same: shuffle across, hope the ball doesn't turn much, and flick the ball into the gaps. Mid-way through South Africa's innings the surface had eased out so batting was not difficult and the duo ticked along without much hassle.
de Villiers was his usual bristling self. A flick, a dab, a cut for two, a ramrod-straight punch for four, and he had the fielders on their toes. A good judge of a run, de Villiers pushed Duminy for quick singles, mostly worked off the pads. Always shuffling around in an attempt to unsettle the bowlers de Villiers picked up his 13th half-century, one that included only two boundaries and a six to seal the win. He cramped up with a hamstring shortly after going past fifty but stuck on to finish unbeaten on 69.
With the likes of Jacques Kallis rested and Gibbs not firing, South Africa had reason to be impressed with Duminy's effort. There was minimal fuss about his strokeplay; he repeatedly took the liberty of the sweep from outside off stump, a shot which has been his downfall in the past, but today it all worked well. After his joint Player-of-the-Series award in his last outing, against West Indies at home, this was another clinical effort from the young left-hander.
The first four of their match-winning stand didn't come until the 127th ball of de Villiers and Duminy's time together, but by then victory was a mere formality. Without taking any risks South Africa were over the finish line in the 49th over.
It wasn't a pretty win, but with sterner stuff around the corner it was time well spent testing their strengths.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo