South Africa seek quick turnaround at slow and tacky Oval

South Africa lost their World Cup opener to hosts England.
South Africa lost their World Cup opener to hosts England. © AFP
There are few better cities in the world than London in the sunshine but unlike the swathes of locals and tourists who flocked to the South Bank to sit by the Thames and drink Pimms on Saturday, soaking up the sun, it promises to be a less relaxing weekend for South Africa. After their opening game defeat to England, they know another loss to Bangladesh would be highly damaging to their campaign.Given the format of the tournament, there is plenty of time for teams to make up lost ground but the more early defeats a side suffers, the more they will need to go on an unbeaten run later on, trying to claw back lost momentum to reach the semi-finals. It’s doable of course but it would much more preferable for South Africa if they make sure their opening game blip does not become a rut, particularly against a team, ranked seventh in the world, which on paper they are stronger than.Bangladesh are tricky customers, however. Their recent form has been good, with the fourth best win-loss record in the last 12 months of any team in the tournament. They won the recent tri-series in Ireland and reached the final of last year’s Asia Cup. Importantly, nine of their 14 wins in the last year have come outside Bangladesh and their three defeats of West Indies during the tri-series confirmed they are developing a more rounded game. They did, however, lose their only completed warm-up game heavily against India.They rely on a core of experienced players, led well by Mushrafe Mortaza, and their fortunes in their tournament will rest on the performances of those men. Unfortunately, they have had a number of injury concerns with those senior players in the lead-up to this game and with a relatively thin squad they cannot afford to be without the likes of Tamim Iqbal and Mustafizur Rahman at any stage.The line coming out from a number of captains is that this a tournament where their teams are going to attack with the ball, hunting wickets. In other words, high risk, for high reward. Faf du Plessis said as much before South Africa’s opening game against England. Jason Holder confirmed that was West Indies’ plan after running through Pakistan at Trent Bridge. England picked 90mph-plus Jofra Archer for that very reason, too.South Africa are certain to stick to that tactic at The Oval with their opponents likely to get a dose of the short stuff. Bangladesh, however, will approach things rather differently. Without a wrist-spinner who can turn the ball both ways or a genuine quick, their strength is in the suffocating nature of their bowling with captain Mortaza, Shakib-al-Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman, who has taken 32 wickets in his last 19 matches, to the fore.
Spinners Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Shakib have conceded less than 4.4 runs an over in the last 12 months and overall Bangladesh have conceded just a smidge more than five runs an over, second only to Afghanistan of teams in the tournament.