:: People’s Time Online ::
Dean Elgar’s hundred headlined the first day of the Potchefstroom Test, even as Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim and South Africa opener Aiden Markram may be left pondering their respective choices.
South Africa finished the day at 298 for 1, taking full advantage of a pitch that offered little assistance to the Bangladesh bowlers, thus leaving the visitors to wonder if they made the right call in opting to bowl first.
Elgar was unbeaten on 128 runs off 285 balls, with nine fours and two sixes, in the company of Hashim Amla, who was 68 not out off 103. The second-wicket pair had added 102 runs until stumps. That partnership came after Markram was unfortunately run out on 97, responding to Elgar’s call for a single that would have taken him to his century. That mis-step aside, the South Africa debutant’s innings was full of class, temperament and patience. He was very strong on full balls, driving 10 boundaries gleefully, and struck 13 fours in all during his 152-ball knock.
Elgar did a similar job, combining his solidity with a few big hits, and he rarely missed an opportunity to score runs. Two of his nine fours came through the covers, and five on the leg side. His two sixes were also hit over the on side. Elgar’s knock helped him move past Cheteshwar Pujara to become the highest Test run-scorer in 2017.
South Africa’s 196-run opening partnership, the side’s highest for that wicket in the last nine years, was the backbone of their batting push after Bangladesh won the toss and chose to field. At the toss, Faf du Plessis said he was surprised by Bangladesh’s decision, and the day’s proceedings indicated why he felt so.
Markram and Elgar began quietly, neither batsman chasing anything that was dangled outside the off stump. They only started to push more for singles, twos and boundaries in the second session, in which Markram reached his fifty off 77 balls. Neither batsman seemed to be in a rush, except when they were in the nineties.
Elgar blasted a six over long-on to surge to 98 and in the following over, batting on 99, called Markram for a quick single after pushing the ball to cover, resulting in the latter’s dismissal. Markram’s run-out brought some relief for Bangladesh a few minutes before the tea interval.
After the tea break, Amla did what he does best: reducing the chance of chaos for the home team. With Mushfiqur mostly opting for a spread-out field, Amla slid through the gears by finding more gaps.
Regardless of his decision, Mushfiqur would have wanted more from his pace bowlers but the lack of assistance for them meant that offspinner Mehidy Hasan was brought into the attack in the sixth over. While Mehidy was accurate with his lengths, his lines were not as consistent.
Mustafizur Rahman, meanwhile, bowled well – possibly better than Shafiul Islam and Taskin Ahmed, which was expected – but he didn’t always look for wickets. Shafiul bowled slightly better to the left-handed Elgar but wasn’t as effective against Markram or Amla, while Taskin bowled a few good overs but lacked patience on the unresponsive pitch.
A sign of Bangladesh’s defensive thinking was their six-over delay in taking the new ball. That mindset could easily dictate terms for the rest of the game if they don’t shed it.
South Africa: 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Temba Bavuma, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt), 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Duanne Olivier.
Bangladesh: 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), 6 Liton Das (wk), 7 Sabbir Rahman, 8 Mehidy Hasan, 9 Taskin Ahmed, 10 Shafiul Islam, 11 Mustafizur Rahman.