ICL: Indian Cricket League

Record opening stand lifts South Africa


On the eve of this match Ashwell Prince called on his batting team-mates to step up and post at least 400 on the board, and his words clearly didn’t fall on deaf ears. But even he wouldn’t have envisioned this: Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie doubled South Africa’s first-innings 170 from Dhaka and then some, frustrating a lifeless Bangladesh on a placid track to the tune of a record 405-run opening stand. In one day.

Smith had no hassles in compiling a South African record fourth double-hundred and his partner in a dumbfounding opening stand, Neil McKenzie, patiently batted his way to a third hundred after a seven-year gap. From the strides made during the opening Test, where they matched their opposition step for step, Bangladesh turned in their worst day in Tests for some time and were staring down the barrel on a track only certain to deteriorate.

With Bangladesh having decided to go onto the defensive early on day one, it was an ideal situation for South Africa’s openers to put up shop for the long haul. For McKenzie left alone a lot but Smith, as the bowlers began serving too much on the pads, began working the ball into the yawning spaces. Smith, leading South Africa for a record 54th Test, found the first-Test pitch a bit odd but took an immediate liking to the one in Chittagong.

He had been bowled via the inside-edge on plenty of occasions in the last 12 months and today Smith made a conscious attempt to get that back foot across. After growing in confidence through some trademark whips to midwicket he opened up with fluent shots to the off. A couple of positively-timed cover-driven boundaries were accompanied by some comfortable whips through the leg side and a cracking straight drive when Shahadat overpitched. He reached his 21st Test half-century from 65 balls with a slap past backward point on the stroke of the lunch.

Smith continued from where he left off in the first session, scoring 80 further runs from just 86 balls. He welcomed back Shahadat Hossain with a drilled straight drive and a dance down the track followed as he caressed four off Mohammad Rafique. His confidence high after crossing fifty, he was soon reaching out and flicking deliveries from well outside off stump.

Smith passed 5000 Test runs and duly reached three figures midway through the session. The fun carried on after the landmark, highlighted by a 16-run over just before tea. Smith’s fourth double-hundred took him past Gary Kirsten (3) and he finished the day with a flutter of boundaries. He has probably had tougher net sessions.

Most sides that come to Chittagong normally employ the use of two spinners and Bangladesh maintained that trend. However Abdur Razzak, brought in to partner veteran Mohammad Rafique, seldom troubled South Africa. His middle-and-leg line, full and flat, was comfortably negated by the batsman, especially Smith. Rafique, in his final appearance, gave the ball a bit of a tweak and varied his pace to keep McKenzie on guard initially.

McKenzie, after failing twice against Shahadat in Dhaka, appeared intent on building an innings. With no real need to force the pace he defended the good deliveries - there were no pushes outside off and he wasn’t beaten - and remained reserved in his approach.

Playing straight and not taking any risks, he plodded the spinners back. When the odd full toss was served up he brought out some firm on-drives, but otherwise his game was made of soft-handed dabs and steers. McKenzie took a liking to Mohammad Ashraful’s gift-wrapped lollipops and duly sent them racing along the outfield.

This was his first score of note since being recalled, and he probably couldn’t have asked for better conditions or a flatter bowling attack. A rare moment of aggression got McKenzie to his third hundred - the seven-year itch snapped with a straight six off Rafique. The same bowler dropped a return catch when McKenzie was on 131 and the batsman shuffled along to a career-best 169 by the close. Seeing him pull a fatigued Shahadat for six in the penultimate over of the day summed up play aptly.

The runs kept coming, the pitch got flatter and some lacklustre bowlers were left to curse the curator as South Africa eased well past the previous best opening stand against Bangladesh (the 87 that Smith and Herschelle Gibbs added at East London in 2002-03). Incidentally, Smith has featured in all four double-century stands for his country. The world record of 413, between India’s Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad, is just nine runs away.

The weather helped the hosts in the last Test played here, but with sunny skies expected all five days, the heat is well and truly on Bangladesh.

Source:Cricket News

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