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Bangladesh look to trip up SA's home season start

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Moonda: Batting selection dilemma for SA (1:27)

Firdose Moonda previews South Africa's first Test against Bangladesh at Senwes Park, Potchefstroom (1:27)

Big Picture

Aiden Markram's Test debut, Ottis Gibson's first match as South Africa coach, Bangladesh's first Test in South Africa in nine years and the first at Senwes Park since 2002. All of these milestones will fade quickly on Thursday when arguably the best team in home conditions take on talented yet unpredictable visitors.

Markram and Gibson are at the start of a busy home season. Gibson, of course, will look to renew his understanding of South Africa cricket, having played for Border, Gauteng and Griqualand West when he used to be a more-than-capable medium-pacer. He has the reliable Faf du Plessis at his side, who has his hands full as captain and one of the batting mainstays.

Du Plessis will have to handle a bowling attack that has two high-class performers - Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada - but also a number of youngsters and newcomers who have to be given confidence. He also has a chance to define his captaincy and set the tone for the home season, either by bolstering the batting with the selection of Theunis de Bruyn or selecting pace-bowling allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo.

Some may feel that Bangladesh are the ideal visitors to try new strategies against, but they are far from pushovers. Mentally, this team is different from the ones that traveled to South Africa in 2002 and 2008. Where previous Bangladesh teams wanted to avoid heavy defeats, the current set of players are thinking of ways to beat their opponents. Bangladesh know how different that mental switch can be.

The task at hand for seniors Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah and coach Chandika Hathurusingha is immense. Bangladesh are without their lynchpin Shakib Al Hasan who was granted rest by the Bangladesh board earlier this month, which means two players have to replace him.

Luckily for Bangladesh, their younger players, like Sabbir Rahman and Mustafizur Rahman, are hungry performers. There is also competition for the second opener's slot: Soumya Sarkar and Imrul Kayes will be aware that Liton Das is breathing down their neck, so a slip-up in South Africa could be critical for their future.

A battle between the two teams used to be uneven until the 2015 ODI series but since then, Bangladesh have realised that beating South Africa, even in their home conditions, is not an impossible task.

Form guide

Bangladesh LWWLL (completed matches, most recent first)

South Africa LLWLD

In the spotlight

Of the five pace bowlers in the Bangladesh squad, Mustafizur Rahman is the only automatic choice in the XI. The mystery around him has worn off but even on home pitches, that serve the spinners heavily, his short bursts have become crucial. He will enjoy conditions in South Africa if he can be accurate.

Dean Elgar needs another 85 runs to topple Cheteshwar Pujara as the leading run-getter in Tests in 2017. A good start from the experienced opener would immediately put Bangladesh's young pace attack on the back foot.

Team news

With Shakib rested, Bangladesh will have to pick four specialist bowlers. Taskin Ahmed's extra pace and Subashis Roy's relatively accurate seam-bowling could be preferred ahead of Shafiul Islam and Rubel Hossain. Soumya Sarkar's shoulder niggle means he is not certain to play - a decision on his inclusion will be taken on the morning of the game.

Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Imrul Kayes, 4 Mominul Haque, 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 7 Sabbir Rahman, 8 Mehidy Hasan, 9 Taskin Ahmed, 10 Subashis Roy, 11 Mustafizur Rahman.

South Africa's choice is between an extra batsman in Theunis de Bruyn or a seam-bowling option in Andile Phehlukwayo. Aiden Markram will make his international debut, replacing Heino Kuhn. Despite being passed fit, Wayne Parnell is unlikely to play.

South Africa (probable): 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Temba Bavuma, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt), 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Theunis de Bruyn/ Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Duanne Olivier

Pitch and conditions

The pitch looks a bit dry but the home side are hoping for good carry off the track, something Bangladesh are also expecting. While there is a forecast for rain on the last two days of the Test, the weather should mostly be dry.

Stats and trivia

  • This is only the second Test to be held at Senwes Park after it hosted the South Africa-Bangladesh game in 2002.

  • Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Imrul Kayes are the only Bangladesh players in the current squad to have played a Test in South Africa, having toured in 2008.

Quotes

"The last two years, their cricket has really improved. They are as tough as any team to play in their own conditions so their standard is on the up. This will be a real opportunity for them to show they can perform outside of their own country."
Faf du Plessis, South Africa captain.

"We have brought five fast bowlers and three of them will play in the first Test. I think they know all too well that if they don't perform, there are others to take their place so that should be motivation enough."
Mushfiqur Rahim, Bangladesh captain