Hashim Amla has said that it was “a difficult one to understand” why South Africa lost points in the ICC rankings after most of their Test series against Bangladesh was washed out. No play was possible for six out of ten days across the two matches, and four in the Dhaka Test alone, leaving the spoils shared.
“You can understand if it’s a 1-1 draw then you’ve played enough cricket to make an impression,” Amla said. “Perhaps this is something that can be relooked at from the ICC’s perspective. All you’d want is something that is fair and will apply to all teams. Us losing points seems a little strange considering we haven’t played a lot of cricket.”
South Africa will leave Bangladesh with what Amla called “unfulfilled ambitions”. “It was frustrating in the sense that we came to Bangladesh with the intention of winning a Test series and playing some good Test cricket and we haven’t managed to do that.”
Both times, South Africa put themselves in strong positions after Bangladesh had exerted pressure early on. In Chittagong, Bangladesh bowled South Africa out for under 250 and took a first-innings lead but by the time play was called off, South Africa’s openers had all but wiped away the deficit and with two days to play, Amla believed his team held the advantage. In Dhaka, South Africa’s bowlers clawed their way back after Bangladesh batted well for most of day one. South Africa were aiming to bowl the hosts out quickly on the second day and then post a big total.
Neither plan came to fruition, leaving South Africa without the chance to extend their lead at the top of the rankings table. Instead, they have lost five points to drop from 130 to 125 and although that will not have any effect on their No. 1 standing, it has narrowed the gap. Whoever wins the Ashes can close in even further and the net impact means there will be increased pressure on South Africa to win their series in India – something they have not done in 15 years.
Given how little cricket they played, Amla said it was tricky to make any proper assessments of the how the team performed. The only real talking point was that the new opening partnership of Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl “seemed quite good, even though it was just two innings that they batted in,” Amla said. The other positives have to be taken from what took place beyond the boundary, in assimilating some of the newer players into a squad that remains in transition.
“At the start of this series, we spoke about having inexperienced players in the team and that it was an opportunity for us to look at how they perform and for them to gain experience. Not getting that opportunity has not allowed the younger guys to show their talent.
“We saw glimpses of Temba’s (Bavuma) talent in the first game, he batted well. Dane Vilas kept extremely well and is a very good batsman but didn’t get the opportunity to show it.
“Although we didn’t get two full Tests in, in terms of preparation it has been as good as we can ask for. The youngsters would have taken a lot out of this tour in terms of what is needed to play in the senior team and with the senior guys around, they would have learned from them. From what the youngsters have said, they have really enjoyed whatever cricket we had.”
In the end, South Africa will remember this tour for the rain – so much of it that had the same amount fallen at home “the game would have been called off yesterday,” as Amla put it – and the one massive milestone it allowed their pace spearhead to tick off. “I was joking that thankfully Dale (Steyn) got his 400th,” Amla said. “Had we batted first in Dhaka, he would have had to wait another three months to take it in India,” Amla said.
That is just how long South Africa have to wait to play Test cricket again. They return home to a limited-overs series against New Zealand for which AB de Villiers should be back in charge and another month off – although some of them could be engaged in the Africa T20 Cup – before a busy summer against India and England, during which they will want to finish all the business they have on the agenda.