Ashraful optimistic ahead of South Africa clash
Bangladesh have only beaten South Africa once in their history but their captain, Mohammad Ashraful, was cheerily optimistic about his side's fortunes in the forthcoming series.
"We played good cricket against New Zealand but unfortunately we lost both series, although we had good chances to win," Ashraful said. "Individually we had some very good performances. In the Tests, Shakib al-Hasan did very well with bat and ball, Mashrafe Mortaza bowled well in the one-dayers and the Tests, as did Abdur Razzak. Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim batted well in the Tests and Junaid Siddique and I did well in the one-dayers."
For all Ashraful's confidence, Bangladesh's first challenge is Wednesday's Twenty20, cricket's most unforgiving format, as Bangladesh's last five consecutive defeats demonstrate. Equally, any team on their day can fell a giant - something Bangladesh have already accomplished when they beat West Indies, at the Wanderers, during the Twenty20 World Championship last year.
"If you want to win any game, you have to play well in all departments but especially bowl well," Ashraful said. "Our strength is spin bowling, but our pace bowlers are very good too. In Twenty20, anyone can win because you only play for a short time. South Africa are a very good side though, ranked No.2, but we have come here to play our best cricket and to improve."
Ashraful and company will be facing a fired-up, and fit-again, Dale Steyn who was recently announced as the ICC's Test Player of the Year. Steyn's lead-up to the season has not been without difficulty. He suffered a bout of sinusitis a few weeks ago, and then had an allergic reaction to the prescribed antibiotics, but he is now raring to go.
"I'm feeling great and I'm really happy to have the new ball back in my hand," Steyn said. "My body hasn't felt so fresh for ages and I ran in nicely in the nets today. But it's a bit like riding a bike, you just get back on.
"It's going to be a long summer and everybody needs to get a good run, so missing a couple of games isn't a problem, you can make that up in the nets. I just want to carry on up from last season. You need to find what works for you and reassess and find a settling point before going higher again. I've spoken to sports psychologists as well as Vinnie Barnes, Mickey Arthur and Graeme Smith about finding a way to keep going up."
South Africa's new-ball experiment against Kenya last week revolved around Monde Zondeki, Albie Morkel and Johann Louw. But for all their promise, their stand-in captain, Johan Botha, is nevertheless delighted to have Steyn and Morne Morkel leading the attack.
"We lacked a bit of firepower up front against Kenya, so it will be great to have Dale and Morne back. The batsmen will definitely be jumping around a bit," said Botha, deputising for Smith whose rehabilitation from a long-standing elbow injury continues.
After tomorrow's Twenty20, the two teams face eachother for three ODIs and two Tests, the first of which gets underway on November 19 at Bloemfontein.