Bangladesh have every reason to put their best fight when they meet South Africa at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur on March 19. They are resting at nothing until they qualify for the quarterfinals of this year's Cricket World Cup. Having won three of their five games so far, the Bangla Tigers are counting on luck, hard work and mathematics for their chance to secure a quarterfinal berth.
South Africa, on the other hand, will be using this match for practice in readiness of the battles ahead. They have already qualified for the quarterfinal but with the unpredictability of match results in this tournament, they wouldn't want to take this match lightly but instead, put a good show and lose if they must or win by merit.
Bangladesh is a team that started with a loss but recovered to beat Ireland in their next game. They then suffered a humiliating loss against West Indies. At that time, critics wrote them off, especially noting that their next do-or-die match was against resurgent England. That game became a classic story of rising from the dead. Bangladesh were chocked and barely struggling to go through the overs after they slipped from 162-5 to 169-8 chasing a target of 226. But just when even half their supporters at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chittagong had forsaken them, Shafiul Islam and Mahmudullah led a miraculous revival with their unbeaten 58 ninth wicket partnership.
Bangladesh's trend so far has revealed a team that lacks consistency but one that can't be written off easily. Many of their games have been cliffhangers and are saved by a shred of luck or last minute heroic display of one bowler or a batsman. Bangladesh will, however, be happy with the fact that their opener Tamim Iqbal has been consistent in the tournament. He made a 43-ball 44 against Ireland and 26 ball 38 against England. The other opener Imrul Kayes has also done well. These two will need to fire when they meet South Africa and hope to get strong support from Junaid Siddique, Raqibul Hasan, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah.
With Mirpur pitch being a nightmare for batsmen and a harvest ground for spinners, Bangladesh should be happy with the way their spinners have done so far. But against South African, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah need to up their game.
South Africa on the other hand have also been known to choke when they really shouldn't be. Against weaker opponents, the Proteas can easily fall off the way. To avoid that, Captain Graeme Smith who has been struggling with the bat throughout the tournament needs to wake up and come up with a good inning. The rest of the batters have done a fairly good job but they still need to get full marks and live up to 'favorites' tag.
Morne Van Wyk was promoted up the order in their game against Ireland and came all guns blazing on a pitch that was proving hard to tackle by the batsmen. If he can discover more freshness in that new role, and the rest of the middle order chips in, they will surely win easily. Robin Peterson and Johan Botha are expected to shine with the ball to counter Bangladesh's spin.
Mirpur pitch has been a good ODI pitch. It's hard enough to encourage batting and since this will be a day match, dew will not be a factor.
Players to watch
Though Graeme Smith has been struggling, you cannot dump him yet. He is waiting for that one chance to prove that he is still in control and this may be that chance. Tamim Iqbal has been good but this is when he is really needed to lead his team forward... and he is very much aware of that.
The Tigers are hungry for one more victory but with the caliber of the Proteas, the Tiger's roar may be reduced to a whisper.
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