South Africa ease past Bangladesh
Mohammad Ashraful and Tamim Iqbal gave Bangladesh genuine cause for hope, but South Africa's greater experience eventually told in the tour-opening Twenty20 in Johannesburg. In a match restricted to 14 overs by an electrical thunderstorm, Bangladesh were given a confident start in pursuit of a Duckworth-Lewis-revised 122, before imploding as the pressure began to toll.
South Africa, who had batted frenetically earlier in the evening, opened their attack with Johann Louw, the tall seamer making his Twenty20 debut, but it was a tactic that didn't pay off. Tamim and Junaid Siddique took him for easy runs in an entertaining opening stand of 25 in three overs. Siddique soon fell, but that paved the way for Bangladesh's captain and most entertaining player, Ashraful, to light up the evening with a sparkling 21 from 10 balls.
Rory Kleinveldt, bowling much too short, was pulled for four, slashed for another and cut for a third by a counter-attacking Ashraful. Even Morne Morkel, who has enjoyed an excellent start to the domestic season, couldn't apply the brake as Ashraful cut him for two savage fours. South Africa's field was scattered and Bangladesh were in charge. However, Johan Botha - stand-in captain for the injured Graeme Smith - brought himself on and immediately ripped one through Ashraful's defences to put South Africa back in the hunt.
The hunt soon became a charge to victory as the pressure began to toll on Bangladesh. Raqibul Hasan was caught behind off Morkel while, at the halfway point, Tamim fell attempting to charge Botha. 34 were needed from 24, the sort of equation South Africa themselves might have fancied, but it was a little too much for Bangladesh. Mushfiqur Rahim edged Albie Morkel past the slips for four, then lifted him down the ground for another boundary, but an excellent comeback over from Louw, in which he conceded just three runs, left the visitors too much to do. Dale Steyn, bowling with serious pace, took 2 for 18 and looked in coltish form.
A comprehensive win on paper for South Africa, then, but their 118 for 7 was a curious mix of the sublime and the frenetic. Loots Bosman and Herschelle Gibbs set the tone in style, particularly Gibbs, who unleashed his trademark cover-drives, standing tall to drive Syed Rasel, on the up, for two creamy fours. Neither Rasel or Shahadat Hossain found any swing, and Bosman took full advantage to pluck Hossain over midwicket for another four.
After four overs South Africa had raced to 43 without so much as threatening an ugly slog, but Rasel maintained a good line outside Gibbs' off stump, cramping him for room to have him bowled off an inside edge. Bosman motored onwards, threatening a big score when he plucked Hossain for six deep into the midwicket stand. He lost his wicket attempting an even bigger heave off the impressively controlled slow-left-arm spin of Abdur Razzak.
Thunder and lightening sent the players off for half-an-hour, and again for 45 minutes, but South Africa rather lost their way on their return. Only AB de Villiers (36) looked to have the situation under control as the likes of Justin Ontong, JP Duminy and Albie Morkel - all of whom made 6 - fell to needlessly extravagant strokes. Razzak's impressive line earned him career-best figures of 4 for 16.
Bangladesh now face South Africa in three ODIs, the first of which gets underway at Potchefstroom on Friday.
Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo