South Africa v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Bloemfontein, 1st day November 19, 2008

Smith and Amla tons hammer Bangladesh

South Africa 299 for 1 (Smith 138*, Amla 103*) v Bangladesh
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary


Graeme Smith was unbeaten on 138 at the close of the first day © Getty Images
 

Graeme Smith extended his exceptional record against Bangladesh with another hundred, as South Africa's international summer began in imperious style on the first day in Bloemfontein. Smith, now fully recovered from the long-standing tennis-elbow injury which prevented him playing the first ODI, was well supported by Neil McKenzie and, in particular, Hashim Amla whose exquisite 103 took South Africa's score past 250 before bad light curtailed the day's play.

Bangladesh approach each series more in hope than genuine expectation. The clutch of players who hot-footed it to the Indian leagues have exposed their shallow resources, and only occasionally did they threaten to distract South Africa from the task of making the most of time in the middle. Opting to field first on such a true surface smacked of nervousness; this is the same pitch on which Titans chased 335 to beat Eagles last week, and there were precious few demons to worry Smith or Amla.

That isn't to say the entire day went South Africa's way. Bangladesh managed to limit the hosts to a cautious 61 at lunch, with their opening bowlers, Mahbubul Alam and Mashrafe Mortaza, bowling a tidy off-stump line. But all too inevitably this discipline slipped and slipped as the afternoon wore on, and South Africa capitalised with increasingly confident strokeplay - particularly off the back foot, where Smith excels. It is early into their international summer but, with a chastened Australia looming on the horizon, the initial form shown by South Africa's captain bodes very well.

Smith, and later Amla, were fed their strengths on the back foot. Alam, like the others, was guilty of bowling too short and Smith needed no second invitation to cut him past point repeatedly for four, before turning straighter deliveries through midwicket. Alam then over-compensated in length to be driven powerfully through extra cover. McKenzie, too, looked in excellent touch and uncorked a beautiful short-arm pull through midwicket to pass 3000 Test runs.

After lunch, South Africa upped the pace to race past 100. The names Smith and McKenzie are etched in Bangladeshi souls after the world-record 415 the openers put on together in February. They looked set to add to their run-tally, but McKenzie, for once, lapsed in concentration when he lazily back-cut the impressively persistent Shahadat Hossain straight to backward point.

It was Bangladesh's only wicket, and thereafter - but for two rain-interruptions - South Africa made smooth, easy progress. Amla's fluidity and growing confidence rubbed off on Smith who danced down the pitch to Shakib Al Hasan on three occasions, treating him with disdain. Amla, meanwhile, was in sublime form from the off, gliding Alam through the covers; cutting Al Hasan for another four before forcing Hossain's wasted balls past point. Bangladesh bowled too short, too frequently.

Smith was given a reprieve in the 80s by the wicketkeeper, Mushfiqur Rahim, and made them pay with another dance-and-loft off Al Hasan to bring up his 17th Test hundred. He later pinged the same bowler over the top for a satisfying blow over long-on. Amla, meanwhile, was untroubled until on 93 he was beaten by a sharply turning delivery from Mehrab Hossain. Unfortunately, first slip couldn't cling on. Bangladesh's cricket is very rarely a shambles, but neither are they consistently slick enough to trouble the best.

After stroking the day's most elegant four down the ground, Amla brought up his sixth Test hundred from 149 balls, as the pair's partnership approached 200 and South Africa closed in on 300. Bad light spared further punishment for Bangladesh, but Smith - whose two previous hundreds against them have both been doubles - will ensure there are fresh bruises on day two.

Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo