Mushfiqur Rahim was at mid-off, which was closer than he had been to the rest of his team for most of the day. He had his arms hanging down by his side, not with his hands clasped together behind his back or with one arm supporting the other as he examined his fingernails. He had not yet had a chat with his bowler, Rubel Hossain, but at least he was present. Or at least, he seemed to be.

But when Dean Elgar, who had already eased his way to a 10th Test century tapped the ball - not smashed it or smacked it or even timed it, just tapped it - to him, Mushfiqur made a tired attempt to stop the ball but timed his dive so that it had already gone past him when he hit the floor. All he ended up with was a sore wrist. And a bruised ego and a lot of questions about the way he has led Bangladesh in this series.

Mushfiqur's mistakes started at the toss in Potchefstroom, when he chose to bowl on an obviously flat track. If he learnt anything from that, it did not show because he did exactly the same thing in Bloemfontein. This pitch has more pace and bounce than the Senwes Park one but it was still a bat-first surface. Faf du Plessis said as much moments after Mushfiqur had made the decision. His exact words were: "Nine times out of then, you would bat first here." Mushfiqur got to see what happens on that one other time.

Before going any further, let's examine Mushfiqur's reasons. Though Mushfiqur insisted, as he did in Potchefstroom, that he wanted his bowlers to get first use of any early movement it looks very much like more than wanting to bowl, Mushfiqur didn't want to bat. All the talk of a green surface and a South African attack keen to make use of their own conditions would have been on Mushfiqur's mind.

He wanted to protect his batsmen much more than he wanted to let his own pack loose. Anyway, if it was the bowlers he was thinking about, Mushfiqur may have been interested in Duanne Olivier's comments that the surface tends to speed up on days two and three and they would probably get more out of it then.

That decision, based on fear not foresight, speaks volumes about the mental state of Bangladesh, or at least their captain. Even though they have become as competitive a team as almost anyone else at home, they don't yet trust themselves to do that in foreign conditions. After being bowled out for 90 last week, they probably trust themselves even less. Without Shakib al Hasan and Tamin Iqbal, they may not trust themselves at all. But self-belief will only come in time once they've proved they can do it and they need to be willing to put themselves in situations which are challenging and try to overcome them.

Last time they didn't do that, this time they didn't do that but that does not excuse what followed. Having decided they would try and rattle South Africa's line-up, Mushfiqur did almost everything he could not to do that. He used four different bowlers in the first six overs, gave the new opening bowler, Subashis Roy, just two overs upfront, and seemed out of options within 15 minutes of play, which brings us to Bangladesh's selection.

They made four changes to the XI that lost in Potchestroom and only one was really necessary. Tamim's injury-enforced absence meant Soumya Sarkar had to come back but why Shafiul Islam, Taskin Ahmed and Mehidy Hasan were dropped is unclear. They didn't have a great first Test and were all expensive in parts but the new crop fared worse, especially in the first session. Rubel, who has not played a Test since January and has a Test bowling average just under 80, was particularly wayward and was not helped by the lack of a clear plan.

Instead of holding encouraging chats or mini-conferences to try and come up with creative plans to dislodge South Africa's openers, Mushfiqur spent a lot of time hidden at deep backward point, staring at the sky. He let Rubel bowl short and Taijul Islam invite the drive; he left the gap wide of mid-on that Aiden Markram pierced; he didn't put men around the bat or try to gee his fielders up on the boundary; he just let things happen.

What did happen was both Elgar and Markram's hundreds, centuries that will look good on their records but which cannot actually speak to the quality of their performances. That will be a concern for South Africa when they enter trickier assignments against India and Australia, but Bangladesh's worries are now.

The first time Mushfiqur actually spoke to a bowler with any animation was in the 50th over, when he had a chat with Mustafizur Rahman. After the conversation, the Fizz switched to bowling around the wicket. His first delivery was a no-ball. So far, so bad.

Later in the over, Mustafizur delivered a bouncer, Elgar swiped it in the air and Liton Das attempted a diving catch but needed an extra inch of height to get there. In Mustafizur's next over, Elgar attempted another pull and couldn't time it. It fell wide of mid-on. In the next over from that end bowled by Subashis, Elgar pulled again. As luck would have it, Mustafizur was at fine leg to take the catch. If that didn't tell Mushfiqur that some talking and some planning goes a long way, nothing will.

To his credit, Mushfiqur was more involved in the third session. He stood closer in, he adjusted his fields, he spoke to his bowlers a lot more. But the damage had been done. And unless Bangladesh can embrace the idea of batting big and batting brave, something they should have done from ball one, that damage will be difficult to undo.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent