CHITTAGONG: Emboldened by their first-ever ODI series victory over South Africa, Bangladesh now want to impress in the longer version of cricket when the two-match Test series starts in Chittagong on Tuesday.
Bangladesh showed they still has a way to go before they can compete in the Test format, when they played Pakistan and India after the World Cup. They lost against Pakistan and drew a weather-affected one-off Test against India.
However, Bangladesh’s stunning comeback in the ODI series — winning 2-1 after a crushing loss in the first match — could see the team carry that form into the first Test at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium.
“Test cricket is a different format but the way we came back against South Africa in the ODI series is a testament of our progress,” said Bangladesh Test captain Mushfiqur Rahim told reporters on Monday. “Our players have been in good rhythm and so it’s our best opportunity.”
Bangladesh had won four successive ODI series over the past eight months following a first-ever appearance in the World Cup quarter-final. But their Test statistics are dismal. They have played 91 Tests, winning just seven — five against Zimbabwe and two against a second-string West Indies side in 2009.
“To achieve anything is a big challenge,” Mushfiqur said. “We have done so well in the one-day cricket, the new challenge for us is to replicate that in the Tests. Almost the same players play in the Tests as well, so why aren’t we able to put in similar performances?”
Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha urged his players to be unfazed by the South African pace attack, which will be bolstered by the presence of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
“The biggest challenge will be their bowlers,” Hathurusingha said. “We want to play aggressive cricket, believe in ourselves. We have to play big moments intelligently as well.”
But just like in the shorter format, an upward trend is also visible in Tests since January 2013, when Bangladesh played 16 Tests, lost just six, won four and drew the rest.
Now faced with the daunting prospect of tackling top-ranked South Africa, Bangladesh see a draw as a realistic target.
South Africa are looking to maintain their success on the road. They last lost a series away from home nine years ago, in Sri Lanka in 2006.
They has since played 14 away series, of which seven have been in the subcontinent, winning 10 and drawing the other four — in India and the United Arab Emirates.
South Africa have won all eight of their Tests against Bangladesh. Seven of those wins came by an innings margin while the other was by five wickets inside four days.
“The way Bangladesh have played in the ODIs, they have been an in-form team and I am sure they will be taking plenty of confidence in the Tests,” South Africa captain Hashim Amla said. “But Test cricket is a different format … One of the strengths of the South African team is that we don’t put a lot of emphasis on what the opposition can do. We mainly focus on our own strengths.”
Steyn heads a group of eight players back in the fray after missing the ODI series, who coach Russell Domingo said will add fresh energy to the team.
“We have to move on,” Domingo told reporters. “It was a disappointing finish to our one-day series after starting well in the T20’s. “We have eight new players here which is always great; there is new energy, new ideas.”
The second and final Test will be played in Dhaka from July 30 to Aug 3.
BANGLADESH: Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque, Mohammad Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (captain), Soumya Sarkar, Litton Das, Nasir Hossain, Taijul Islam, Jubair Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Mohammad Shahid, Mustafizur Rahman.
SOUTH AFRICA: Dean Elgar, Reeza Hendricks, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla (captain), J.P. Duminy, Stiaan van Zyl, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Simon Harmer, Temba Bavuma, Dane Vilas.
Umpires: Richard Kettleborough (England) and Joel Wilson (West Indies).
TV umpire: Paul Reiffel (Australia).
Match referee: Chris Broad (England).