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On the eve of South Africa's fateful World Cup game against Sri Lanka at Durban in March 2003 - the rain-affected tie that threw them ignominiously out of the tournament - the Sri Lankans were unamused to see a poster outside their dressing-room. "When little dogs play with big dogs," it read, "it's better they stay indoors." If the patronising sentiment proved wholly misplaced at Kingsmead, it did perhaps have some relevance during Bangladesh's visit five months earlier.
True, the tourists were up against one of the wolfhounds of world cricket, but they never came close to mounting a credible challenge during three one-day internationals or two horribly one-sided Tests.
Perhaps it really would have been better if they had stayed indoors. As soon as Bangladesh emerged from the pavilion, they were mercilessly, predictably and often tediously put to the sword. Time and again, from both sides, came the mantra that they would learn from the experience, that they could only improve by playing against the best, that there was genuine talent in the squad. But it wore thin.
South Africa took the opportunity to blood two players and two Test grounds. Martin van Jaarsveld appeared in both forms of the game, while Ashwell Prince made his one-day debut; their performances were inconclusive. Meanwhile, Buffalo Park in East London and the North West Cricket Stadium in Potchefstroom became Test cricket's 85th and 86th venues but they did not enjoy the financial benefits of higher-profile opposition.
Still, several South Africans cashed in, record-wise, and gave their statistics a healthy if questionable boost. Herschelle Gibbs was denied a record fourth consecutive one-day hundred by a wild wide from leg-spinner Alok Kapali, Gary Kirsten became the first batsman to score hundreds against all nine Test opponents, and Jacques Kallis ground on, scoring 214 unbeaten runs in the two five-day games, which altogether lasted less than six.
For Bangladesh, comfort came in crumbs rather than chunks. There were encouraging signs from their young seam bowlers, Talha Jubair and Tapash Baisya, as well as welcome signs of solidity in the batting. But they all struggled against the accuracy and hostility of Makhaya Ntini.
Match reports for
South Africa A v Bangladeshis at Soweto, Oct 1, 2002
KwaZulu-Natal v Bangladesh at Ladysmith, Feb 3, 2003
KwaZulu-Natal v Bangladesh at Durban, Feb 5, 2003
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