When a team loses the toss and is put in to bat, there is usually some trepidation among the openers, and the expectation that the opposition bowlers will exploit favourable new-ball conditions.
None of that has happened in the current South Africa-Bangladesh series, though. Twice in two Tests, Mushfiqur Rahim has won the toss, chosen to field, and then watched helplessly as his bowlers have been utterly toothless against South Africa's openers. In Potchefstroom, Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram added 196 before Markram was run-out trying to help his partner get his century. No such mishap occurred in Bloemfontein, though, as the pair added 243, which is the third-highest opening stand in the first innings in Test history after a team has been put in to bat. The top spot belongs to a South African pair too: Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs added 301 against West Indies in Centurion in 2004; coincidentally, that was exactly what West Indies managed losing all ten wickets in their first innings. They eventually lost the Test by ten wickets. The other instance was also in 2004, when Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer added 255 against Sri Lanka in Cairns.
Elgar and Markram have put together two first-innings century stands in the series after South Africa lost the toss, which is an extremely rare occurrence in Test cricket. There have only been two previous instances of a team adding century stands for the opening wicket twice in the first innings of a series after being put in. Bangladesh were at the receiving end in the previous instance too, in 2014 in the West Indies, when Kraigg Brathwaite teamed up with Chris Gayle and Leon Johnson to add century stands in Kingstown and in Gros Islet. On that occasion too, Mushfiqur was Bangladesh's captain.
The other instance was even more remarkable, when Hayden and Langer added 224 and 223 in Brisbane and Hobart, after Australia lost both tosses against New Zealand in 2001.
|Hayden-Langer||NZ||224 & 223||2001|
|Brathwaite-Gayle/Johnson||B'desh||116 & 143||2014|
|Elgar-Markram||B'desh||196 & 243||2017|
There was another bizarre instance of India causing similar pain to Bangladesh. In the Mirpur Test in 2007, India were put in to bat, and eventually lost their first wicket at 408, but not before there had been three century stands: Dinesh Karthik and Wasim Jaffer added 175 before Karthik retired; Jaffer then added 106 with Rahul Dravid before he retired ill; Dravid was then joined by Sachin Tendulkar and they added 127 more before Dravid was finally dismissed.
At least things weren't quite as dire for Bangladesh today in Bloemfontein.
Prolific beginning for Elgar-Markram
South Africa struggled to put together meaningful opening stands on their tour to England earlier this year, but in friendlier conditions against friendlier opposition, they are making up for it. In three innings, their new pair of Elgar and Markram have added partnerships of 196, 30 and 243 - that is 469 runs in three innings. Only three opening pairs have added more runs in their first three partnerships - Hayden-Langer, David Warner-Joe Burns, and Jack Hobbs-Herbert Sutcliffe. The Warner-Burns combination flattered to deceive - they managed only 84 runs in their last nine partnerships - but if Elgar and Markram come anywhere close to the achievements of the other two pairs in this list, South Africa will be very well served indeed.
S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. @rajeshstats