ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Bangladesh v South Africa, Group B, World Cup 2011, Mirpur
Bangladesh wary of South African pace
Firdose Moonda in Mirpur
March 18, 2011
Of all the questions Shakib Al Hasan had to answer at his pre-match press conference in Dhaka, the one about the score was asked most often. How much would Bangladesh like to put on the board to feel safe if they bat first? How much would they be comfortable chasing? How much do they think South Africa would be looking at?
Eventually Shakib chose to answer in the simplest way possible. "If we bat first we'll have to put on a good total and if we bowl first we'll have to restrict them," he said, wiping his brow. It was probably another way of saying "I don't know" but instead of being that basic he added another line for good measure: 'I haven't seen the wicket yet so I am not sure."
Amongst all those questions the number 58 was not mentioned once, neither were any of the connotations that have come with it. Bangladesh last played in Dhaka on the day that they were bowled out for 58, by the West Indies, a loss that revealed an ugly side to fans that have been welcoming and proud of their status as World Cup hosts. Since then, Bangladesh have recovered admirably, showing that they can handle pressure by chasing 225 to beat England in a tight finish.
That's what Shakib is focusing on. "Throughout this tournament we have played well, even though people have said that we haven't batted enough." That was enough to prompt another round of numbers questions, this time about individual scores. "We've seen even Associate players score centuries at this World Cup, but not one of the Bangladesh batsman has done so," said the questioner, who stopped right there, not bothering to ask anything, just wanting Shakib to respond to what's being perceived as batting failings.
"Only Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli have scored centuries in Bangladesh in the tournament," he said, referring to the opening match in which India put on 370 for 4. "That was a different wicket and we scored 280 in it. No other team has scored more than 250." The pitch at Dhaka is known to be tricky for batsmen, with the average score for a team batting first just 231 - a far cry from the scores in excess of 300 that recent ODIs have seen.
It's hardly the sort of surface that a batting side under pressure will look to play on. What it is is the kind of pitch that promotes character building. It's the type that will reward the man who can withstand an assault from seam bowlers and spinners, who can show patience and who can build an innings with hard work rather than come out and expect to wave his bat around like a wand to conjure up a big score.
It's also the kind of pitch that bowlers will look forward to playing on, particularly a bowling unit that has dismissed all five of the teams they have faced so far. South Africa have a 100% record in the bowling department and with the discipline and variation they have, they will want to hold on to that. It's the most varied attack South Africa ever had at a World Cup and they've kept things fluid by mixing up the combinations. They've opened twice with a spinner, rotated the bowlers creatively and bowled to specific plans.
Shakib said that although the South Africans spinners are bowling "reasonably well" it's not them that the Bangladesh batsmen are worried about. "We'll have to be careful about their fast bowlers too." South Africa have bowled Bangladesh out for 173 and 143 on this surface before, in March 2008, with seamers claiming 12 of the 20 wickets. Those may turn out to be numbers most worth concentrating on.