Emphatic win for host

THE South Africans were feeling the heat. There was the real threat of a humiliating elimination before the Super Six stage and for a side that was counted among the pre-tournament favourites, this was an unsavoury thought.

THE South Africans were feeling the heat. There was the real threat of a humiliating elimination before the Super Six stage and for a side that was counted among the pre-tournament favourites, this was an unsavoury thought.

Makhaya Ntini, the most successful South African bowler, is about to be congratulated by skipper Shaun Pollock. — Pic. AFP.-

The Proteas had been left shell-shocked by Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming's aggression in Johannesburg, and had come in for stinging criticism from all quarters following that disastrous outing, which left the home side with just four points from three matches.

This also meant that Shaun Pollock's men would have to win their next three games to have any chance of qualifying for the Super Sixes. This was the time to shut out the negative thoughts and concentrate on the job ahead.

The South Africans were only meeting minnows Bangladesh, perhaps the most unimpressive side in the competition, at Bloemfontein, and despite the grim mood in the camp, this was bound to be an easy kill.

However, the Proteas had to win the contest convincingly to get the campaign back on the right track. It was also important for South Africa to show the world that the voices of dissent in the camp did not have a bearing on the morale of the side.

Indeed, Herschelle Gibbs, that outspoken opener, had talked to the press about the inspirational nature of the late Hansie Cronje's captaincy, and how Pollock's methods were predictable in comparison. This set the cat amongst the pigeons. It did not matter to Gibbs that both he and his former skipper were disgraced in the match-fixing scandal.

There were words of wisdom for the side too from the former coach, the highly-rated Bob Woolmer. "My advice to the boys would be to throw away all the newspapers for the next two weeks, switch off the television sets and the radios and play the game they have so effectively done in the past two years. It is clear that Hansie is no more and Pollock has been given the responsibility to lead. He must deal with it in the best way possible."

For Bangladesh, that had played a Test and a one-day series in South Africa earlier this season, a defeat was certain if the weather held good. However, the trouble in the home camp was good news for skipper Khaled Mashud. "We have no pressure, it's the South Africans who are in trouble for qualifying for the next stage. We will give 100 per cent and try to benefit from the pressure on our rival."

It was also time for the hosts to take some hard decisions. South Africa's greatest bowler Allan Donald had struggled all through the tournament and now there was a distinct possibility that the legend might be left out on his home ground. "The side we pick tomorrow might surprise the public and the media," South Africa's chief selector Omar Henry said, although the omission of Donald would have hardly left anyone stunned. Donald himself was realistic. "If I get an opportunity to play on the home ground, that would be great, but it would be totally up to the selectors and the team-management.''

In the event, Donald was left out and in his place came the young Monde Zondeki. All-rounder Andrew Hall and left-arm spinner Robin Peterson replaced opener Graeme Smith and all-rounder Nicky Boje.

The match itself turned out to be a no-contest, Bangladesh, with a batting order lacking both technique and character, being bundled out for 108 in 35.1 overs, after Pollock won the toss. It was a pathetic display by the Bangladesh batsmen on a good batting track, and after Pollock struck two early blows, dismissing opener Al Sahariar and E. Haque, for zero and three, another disastrous journey had begun for the visitors. Man of the Match Makhaya Ntini, who operated with much pace and fire yet again, nailed Mohammed Ashraful for six, and then Hall and Zondeki did not allow the middle-order to breathe easy, striking telling blows, before Ntini returned to clean up the tail to end up with four for 24.

Things could have been worse for Bangladesh but for captain Mashud and Mahmud, contributing 29 and 23 lower down the order. While Ntini was outstanding with the ball, Boeta Dippenaar was sharp on the field, pocketing three catches at third slip.

The South Africans rocketed to the target in just 12 overs, openers Gibbs (49 not out, 32b, 9x4, 1x6) and Gary Kirsten (52 not out, 40b, 8x4, 1x6) — who had moved up from No. 3 following the omission of Smith — dismissing a grossly inadequate attack to all parts of Goodyear Park.

The Proteas had also managed to improve their net run-rate quite dramatically. Pollock's idea was to insert the opposition, knock over the batsmen quickly, and get the runs in double quick time. The plan worked to perfection.

The scores:

Bangladesh: Al-Sahariar c Peterson b Pollock 0; Ehsanul Haque c Zondeki b Pollock 3; Mohammad Ashraful c Boucher b Ntini 6; Sanwar Hossain c Kallis b Hall 11; Alok Kapali c Dippenaar b Zondeki 2; Tushar Imran c Dippenaar b Hall 9; Khaled Mashud c Boucher b Ntini 29; Khaled Mahmud c Klusener b Ntini 23; Mohammad Rafique (run out) 1; Manjurul Islam c Dippenaar b Ntini 0; Talha Jubair (not out) 4; Extras (lb-4, nb-8, w-8) 20; Total (in 35.1 overs) 108.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-14, 3-21, 4-33, 5-33, 6-56, 7-91, 8-93, 9-99.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 6-2-8-2, Ntini 7.1-1-24-4, Zondeki 5-1-17-1, Hall 6-2-15-2, Kallis 5-0-19-0, Peterson 6-0-21-0.

South Africa: H. Gibbs (not out) 49; G. Kirsten (not out) 52; Extras (lb-1, w-7) 8; Total (for no wicket in 12 overs) 109.

Bangladesh bowling: Manjural Islam 4-0-26-0, Talha Jubair 2-0-24-0, Khaled Mahmud 2-0-20-0, Mohammad Rafique 2-0-20-0, Alok Kapali 2-0-18-0.