Rudolph, Dippenaar hog limelight for South Africa

THE result of the Test was never in question. Even a South African side going through a period of transition would defeat Bangladesh. Yet, would the host be able to put up some kind of resistance?

THE result of the Test was never in question. Even a South African side going through a period of transition would defeat Bangladesh. Yet, would the host be able to put up some kind of resistance?

Jacques Rudolph hit an unbeaten double century on debut, while Boeta Dippenaar cracked an unbeaten 178. — Pic. AFP-

Much of cricket revolves on home advantage. A side like Australia can conquer conditions. And a team such as Bangladesh can get whipped even in its backyard.

Bangladesh yearns for respect as a cricketing nation. However, it must realise that only performances on the field of play would enable it to earn that. Meek displays such as the one in the first Test at Chittagong will take it nowhere.

You can change the captain, you can shuffle the side, leave a few experienced cricketers out, draft in newcomers. However, unless the results improve, all these would count for nothing. For Bangladesh nothing appears to be working.

South Africa, under new skipper Graeme Smith, crushed the host by an innings and 60 runs at the M.A. Aziz Stadium, just an hour into the fourth day. The Proteas had plenty of reasons to be pleased.

Smith was delighted to win his first Test as captain. Smiling too were debutant Jacques Rudolph, Boeta Dippenaar and Paul Adams. Rudolph's 222 not out was the highest score on debut by a South African and his unbroken 429-run partnership in 123.2 overs with Dippenaar (178 not out), the most for any wicket for the Proteas in Tests. The third wicket pair had also batted through the second day without being separated, the first South African duo, and the seventh in Tests, to achieve the feat.

Left-arm Chinaman bowler Adams, someone with precocious talent, but who had not always done justice to his ability, registered his first 10-wicket match haul in Tests, scalping five in each innings. His sharp turn coupled with his 'frog in the blender' action made it very difficult for the Bangladeshis to pick him.

Bangladesh slumped from 97 for one to 173 all out on the first day, and did only slightly better in its second innings, bowled out for 237, again losing its way from 173 for two. South Africa that lost Smith and Herschelle Gibbs early, declared at an imposing 470 for two, Rudolph and Dippenaar revelling under the bright sun.

Rudolph has always been regarded as one with oodles of talent. This fluent left-hander, whose driving through the off-side can be glorious, actually made his `Test' debut against India in 2001.

However, the Mike Denness controversy and the rather dramatic sequence of events triggered by the Indians and the match referee saw the third match of the Test series being declared unofficial.

Rudolph missed out again when he was slated to make his debut in the Test series down under, his place being taken by Justin Ontong, a cricketer of modest talents, on `race quota.'

It was thus third time lucky for Rudolph, who now is the first South African and the fifth batsman overall to notch up a double hundred in his first Test.

The Bangladesh attack was not threatening and the southpaw did make the most of the opportunity, adjusting well to the conditions.

A long stint in the middle was bound to enhance his confidence levels, irrespective of the opposition. In all, Rudolph batted for 521 minutes, striking 25 fours and 2 sixes, and it could have been more but for the declaration.

In contrast to debutant Rudolph, Dippenaar has been capped many times. But he had not made the most of his opportunities.

A no mean strokemaker, Dippenaar can appear attractive, especially while driving down the ground. However, there had been one occasion too many when the South African had not consolidated on starts. This is reflected in the fact that in 18 Tests before this one he had made just one century and two half-centuries. His effort at the Aziz Stadium was a lot more fruitful, the right-hander striking 25 boundaries and two sixes during his 516-minute stay.

The search is on in South Africa for batsmen who can provide solidity to the middle-order. Rudolph and Dippenaar could have a role to play in the coming years. They are young and have a lot of cricket ahead of them.

The Bangladesh bowling had been seen in relatively better light in the rather shallow world of limited overs cricket. But then, these 50-over games, can so easily hide weaknesses.

Bangladesh lacks a wicket-taking bowler, and in a Test side there are too many bits and pieces cricketers, skipper Khaled Mahmud being one of them. It is difficult to see how Bangladesh can ever win a Test with its present bunch of bowlers.

Batting has also been a huge problem area for Bangladesh with a tendency to come apart all too often. Habibul Bashar, the best technically-equipped batsman in the side, did notch up scores of 60 and 75, batting at No. 3.

However, take away Bashar's efforts, and opener Javed Omar's 71 in the second essay, no other batsman crossed 30. This is hardly the way to go in Test cricket, where batting is about occupation of the crease, building partnerships, and much planning. Omar and Bashar raised 83 in the first innings and 131 in the second, but then, there was little else in the Bangladesh displays as the side was bowled out for 173 and 237.

This time, the Bangladeshis were not undone by pace, but by the spin of Adams. The South African with his unique action is on a comeback trail and he does add to the attack in terms of variety, with his wrong `un putting seeds of doubts in the minds of the batsmen.

Adams, if he hits the right length, can trouble much better line-ups and he does spin the ball sharply.

The left-armer should be a key member of the South African campaign in England, considering that the Englishmen are not really the best players of the turning ball.

As for Bangladesh, crossing 200 in the second innings, a mark that had been proving to be a barrier of sorts, was the only consolation. There were brief moments of celebration in the Bangladesh camp late on the first day when debutant wicket-keeper Mohammed Salim came up with two good catches to dismiss Smith and Gibbs, but as the Test progressed, Bangladesh had less and less to cheer about. The Proteas won by a mile.

Scoreboard Ban<%/TD> SA Ban (I)<%/TD> (I) (II) 1st 14 38 7 2nd 97 41 138 3rd 100 173 4th 124 183 5th 125 185 6th 126 213 7th 136 224 8th 144 224 9th 147 224