'We could not apply ourselves properly' - Ashraful
Not for the first time in his career, Mohammad Ashraful has blamed another defeat on Bangladesh's inability to cope with pace . Bangladesh crashed to an innings-and-29-run loss in the first Test against South Africa in Bloemfontein, following which Ashraful criticised the batsmen's failure to apply themselves.
"We knew they have a very good bowling attack with world-class pacers in operation. However, I still think we could have played them better," he said. "It's true that we are not used to playing on wickets that have bounce but we tried to prepare the best we could. It is difficult for any visiting team in South Africa and not just us."
Bangladesh were bowled out for 159 following on after being dismissed for 153 in the first innings. Ashraful did not, however, feel the batsmen threw their wickets away. "You have to keep scoring even in Test cricket because no matter how long you stay in the middle. You will never be set if you don't score. You have to punish the loose balls after playing or leaving out the good ones," he said. "For example, I got a half-volley in the first innings and I could not execute the drive properly and was caught. It was a four-ball to any specialist batsman.
"Tamim [Iqbal] and Junaid [Siddique] had width and went for the cut shot. Unfortunately they also edged and got out. No batsman wants to come away from the middle. Our intent was right but the execution was not. We could not apply ourselves properly on a pitch that was sporting."
Ashraful believed his bowlers had bowled well on the second day after South Africa finished the first on 299 for 1. The catching, he said, could have been better - Graeme Smith had been given a reprieve in the 80s by wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim, and Amla was dropped at first slip when on 93. "We allowed the South African openers get a great start and then Amla also cashed in on a dropped chance. That was the decisive point in the match because the wicket was doing a bit."
Ashraful was able to pick out only a few positives from another massive defeat. "Shakib [Al Hasan] was outstanding with the ball and the pacers came good on day two. Mushfiqur's batting in the first innings and Mehrab's in the second showed the others how to go about on wickets that seam and bounce. These are little positives that we can take into the next Test, and also the better knowledge of their bowlers and batsmen."
Graeme Smith, the South African captain, said he was satisfied with his team's first Test in almost three months. He was not concerned by the lack of form of some of his top order batsmen, with the side slumping from 327 for1 to 441 for 9.
"We wanted everyone to have a good go in the middle in these two Test matches," he said. "It wasn't a wicket where it was easy to force the pace and when we tried to do that in the middle order we lost our way a bit, with maybe one or two careless shots. But 450-500 was a total we wanted to declare on so we could have a go at their batsmen that [second day] afternoon."