These teams seem to bring out the extremes in one another. In previous World Cups, that has meant one-sided games, in which one side completely dominated the other – as South Africa did with a 10-wicket whomping in their first encounter in Bloemfontein in 2003. Four years later, it was Bangladesh’s turn to bring the pain as an array of left-arm spin sent South Africa spiralling to a 67-run defeat in Providence. The pendulum swung back when Bangladesh wilted to 78 all out under lights in Mirpur in 2011. And now it’s swung once more, Bangladesh excelling to soar to a 21-run win. That result would make this officially the closest South Africa-Bangladesh match in ODI history, but on a day when the South Africans were outplayed in all departments, that wasn’t saying much.
Along the way, Bangladesh’s achievements, collective and individual, were both many and noteworthy. Shakib Al Hasan became the first Bangladeshi – and fastest cricketer – to the double of 250 wickets and 5,000 runs in ODIs, getting there quicker than the likes of Shahid Afridi and Jacques Kallis. Bangladesh reached 330 for 6, their highest total in ODIs, smashing their previous best against South Africa by 52 runs.
That they soared so high was thanks mainly to a 142-run stand between Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, which is also Bangladesh’s highest in World Cups. Coming together when Soumya Sarkar fell in the 12th over, they weren’t parted until the 36th. Neither man went on to a hundred, but Mahmudullah entered and played the finisher’s role perfectly, slamming 46 not out from 33 balls.
Few would have predicted that Bangladesh’s batsmen could have bested South Africa’s vaunted quicks so thoroughly.There was much fanfare about the potential in South Africa’s bowling attack before this tournament. Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi and Imran Tahir are all match-winners in their own right, and having all four in the same line-up was South Africa’s Plan A. But Steyn is yet to recover from the shoulder flare-up that cut short his IPL jaunt and did not play today, Ngidi limped off with a tweaked hamstring after bowling four wicketless overs that leaked seven boundaries, and Rabada endured one of his rare off days, conceding 0 for 57 in his ten overs.
South Africa clearly had a plan with the ball, and Faf du Plessis said as much at the toss, telegraphing his intentions by saying: “We’re playing the extra seamer today so we want to try and attack Bangladesh with some extra pace.” But once Bangladesh showed they were happy to take the short ball on, South Africa floundered for a back-up.
Their batting was equally rudderless. Quinton de Kock, so vital to South Africa’s success at home last summer, was dismissed inside the Powerplay, and though Nos. 2 to 6 all scored 38 or more, and got themselves in, none was able to kick on, bat through, and see their team home. Every time they needed one, Bangladesh were able to conjure a wicket. The final result might suggest this was the closest match in these two teams’ shared one-day history, but the reality was that there were few moments when South Africa were not left chasing the game.