TIGER TIGER BURNING BRIGHT

South Africa’s tour of Bangladesh

The Tigers are glorified kittens no more. Bangladesh, a country that has been mocked for its false-start cricketing skills over the last 15 years, has now risen. 
And in style. 
 
It perhaps started with a World Cup in alien conditions—where most teams were struggling to adapt. Surprisingly, it was India and Bangladesh, two notoriously poor travelers, who looked most at home. If Bangladesh hadn’t faced India in the quarterfinals, and if Rohit Sharma had been given out for that ‘no-ball’, you never know…
Then came the home season. Bangladesh has been strong at home for a few years now, as New Zealand can testify. 
But were they strong enough to battle Pakistan, India and then South Africa? Surely, with three teams like that visiting, some senior careers would be ending, or swiftly terminated after yet another disastrous summer. 
But nothing of the sort happened. What happened next will amaze you…
 
Bangladesh defeated Pakistan 3-0 in the ODI series. They are still not a complete test team, but their limited overs team has scaled new heights in just two short months. They then defeated India 2-1, with new sensation Mustafizur Rahman picking up 13 wickets in the series. India, with a full strength team under Dhoni, were outplayed and out-captained on pitches that were supposed to suit the slow medium pace of the visitors. This forced most of the senior Indian players to take a break, and retreat to their summer holidays. Kohli was seen at Wimbledon with Tendulkar, while Dhoni was nowhere to be seen. 
And then came the South Africans. Widely regarded as the greatest bilateral series team to have ever played the game, surely they weren’t going to be another Asian victim. They were far more complete, even without AB de Villiers (resting), with the likes of Amla, du Plessis, Duminy and Miller ready to put Bangladesh back in their places. 
The T20 series felt like normal service had been restored. And then the first ODI at Mirpur came, where South Africa annihilated the home team in a rain-shortened 40 over match by 8 wickets after bowling them out for 160. 
 
The second match at Mirpur was even more one sided. But shocker of shockers, this time it was South Africa bowled out for 162. And the Tigers romped home with 134 balls to spare and 7 wickets in hand. South Africa had never lost to severely in ODIs. Ever. To put things into perspective, that is quite a record to lose. 
Hashim Amla and De Kock, their openers, hadn’t scored runs forever. Amla went more than 6 innings without an ODI 50 for the first time in his career, stretching back to the World Cup—where he disappointed severely along with some other stars. 
In the last ODI at Chittagong, South Africa came in a furious team. They left a furious team too. In another 40-over match, they lost by 9 wickets—their heaviest loss by wickets in forever, with Bangladesh making a mockery out of their 168 laborious runs. South Africa looked like they were playing on a different pitch altogether, with only Duminy and Miller looking comfortable for a brief while. Shakib and Mortaza both reached 200 wickets in the process, choking the South African batsmen into submission. Even Morne Morke couldn’t stop Soumya Sarkar—for whom this series has become a game-changer, a fruition of all his promise and talent—while Tahir and Duminy could do no damage on a pitch that seemed to have turned on the medium pacers of Bangladesh. Rubel, Rahman, Mortaza and Shakib shared 8 wickets between them, and didn’t let the visitors get away.
 
Just like that, South Africa lost their first ever bilateral series to Bangladesh—and perhaps their first bilateral series in a while, since their 4-1 loss to Australia two years ago. 
AB de Villiers, the ODI captain who didn’t play the series, can’t be a happy man. Perhaps he will consider coming back for the tests. This Bangladesh team is now an official 2016 Champions Trophy team—which leaves Pakistan and West Indies to fight it out for the final spot. This could be the first time either one of these two great test nations might not even qualify for the main draw. 

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