SO it has come to this: one of the strongest teams in the game humbled by one of the weakest. And in a series, no less – which ended in Chittagong last night with Bangladesh winning the third one-day international by nine wickets with 13.5 overs to spare to clinch their very first rubber against South Africa.
Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar shared a stand of 154, Bangladesh’s biggest for any wicket against South Africa. Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza, meanwhile, both reached 200 wickets in the format.
SA frittered away four wickets for 50 runs in 15.1 overs with ill-considered strokeplay before David Miller and JP Duminy coaxed the innings back to some sort of life in a carefully compiled stand of 63.
But there was little to follow that, and Bangladesh were set a rain-adjusted target of 170 in 40 overs. SA’s attack, then, had little credit in the bank. Worse, they bowled as if they were flat broke.
So Sarkar was able to score 90 before holing out 10 balls before the match was decided. Tamim finished on 61 not out. And that after Hashim Amla, at the toss, had hoped out loud that SA’s seven-wicket loss on Sunday had been “a bit of a mishap”.
Afterwards, Amla admitted: “We showed we were rusty; we haven’t played good cricket over the last couple of games.” Which, coming from cricket’s most polite man, was tantamount to: “We had a shocker.”
Is this the dark shadow of the damage that was done to SA, on and off the field, at the World Cup?
After SA crashed out of that tournament in a blaze of New Zealand’s batting and their own bumbling board, player after player has riffed on the theme of “that’s behind us now”.
Patently, it is not. SA had their hearts ripped out at the World Cup and they are in desperate need of a transplant. They could fake reasonable health in two one-sided T20s against the Bangladeshis, who were still punch drunk come the first ODI. But there has been no hiding the hurt since then.
The confident SA team, who smashed the dangerous Sri Lankans in their World Cup quarterfinal and took the Kiwis deep a game later, are a receding memory. They have been replaced, not as much in body as in spirit, by a side lacking self-belief.
Bangladesh are, by their standards, enjoying a purple patch: yesterday’s win was their 10th in their 21 matches this year across all formats. So, even though they are supposedly at their best, Bangladesh have won not quite half the time.
By contrast, SA, in what has been at best a patchy year for them, have won 14 of their 22 matches.
As Neil McKenzie said as SA’s fate hove into view: “Our side is too good to be losing to Bangladesh, however well they’ve played.”
Damn right. SA would have been as well served yesterday had they turned up with spades instead of bats, the easier to dig their own graves.