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The Proteas' preparation

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South_Africa_Bangladesh_Test_CricketBangladesh have landed in the Rainbow Nation for Test cricket after nine long years. The visitors do not have fond memories of their previous tours to South Africa, having lost four out of four Tests played. In fact, they haven't managed to make South Africa bat twice in any of the four Tests, losing by an innings on every occasion.

South Africa, on the other hand, start off their big summer sedately with Bangladesh Tests in Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein. They have Zimbabwe over for the Boxing Day Test in December, a four day affair which may or may not be given Test status by ICC. Following this, India and Australia land in January and March respectively in what will be a busy summer for the Proteas.

AB de Villiers is due to return for the Boxing Day Test and there are quite a few other personnel changes in the South African setup. The Bangladesh series is expected to be a dress rehearsal for the bigger series. Here are what the Proteas will look to gain from the Bangladesh Tests.

Breaking in Aiden Markram

Aiden Markram is the new kid on the block and is set to make his Test debut in the first match against Bangladesh as Dean Elgar's opening partner. At 22, the youngster is already an Under-19 World Cup winning captain and one of the most promising talents in the country.

South Africa have had their fair share of woes at the top of the order, struggling to identify a suitable candidate to partner Dean Elgar. Stiaan van Zyl, Stephen Cook and Heino Kuhn were tried in the recent past but without much success and the lot has finally fallen on the crowd favourite, Markram.

Bangladesh’s bowlers do not have the best of records in the country, and this would provide an opportunity for Markram to get over the early jitters of playing Test cricket. The series presents a wonderful opportunity for the Proteas to build the playing time between Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram, although the duo did showcase their camaraderie in the recent SunFoil match (South Africa's First-class competition) for Titans, whom both represent.

Identifying their back-up quick bowlers

With Vernon Philander, Chris Morris and Dale Steyn ruled out of the two Tests, South Africa have Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Duanne Olivier, Wayne Parnell and Andile Phehlukwayo to shoulder the pace bowling responsibility.

It is an audition of sorts for the likes of Phehlukwayo, Parnell and Olivier, with Philander, Morris and Steyn expected to walk in to the Test team on return. When that happens, only one of the three - Olivier, Parnell and Phehlukwayo - is likely to retain their place in the Test squad.

For the first Test, South Africa are expected to go in with three seamers and an all-rounder, which could mean a toss-up between Wayne Parnell and Andile Phehlukwayo. If this series allows them to identify their back-up pace bowlers before the Indian series, South Africa would be more than pleased.

Welcoming Ottis Gibson to the nuances of South African cricket

South Africa have a new head coach after Russell Domingo stepped down and Ottis Gibson, former West Indian coach and England bowling coach, took charge. Gibson is familiar with the political scenario in South Africa and the transformation policies, having played for franchises in South African domestic cricket, but will need to settle into his role as head coach of the national team.

South Africa have as many as ten Tests scheduled in the home summer and it will undoubtedly prove to be a test of Gibson's coaching skills. The Bangladesh series would allow him to start on a less-than-stressful note and get used to the environment in the South African dressing room.

The no.4 position

A lot has been said and written about South Africa's no.4 position in Tests. In the absence of AB de Villiers, South Africa have struggled to identify the right man for that role, with Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma trying it out in recent times.

With de Villiers due to return for the India series, the conundrum should ideally end. But South Africa will want to test their best options in his absence nevertheless. Bavuma, who has shown the technique and aptitude to survive at no.4, is likely to continue his stint at the position although he had been pretty effective for the Proteas down the order as well.

De Kock, meanwhile, will likely come in at 6 with an all-rounder occupying the no.7 spot. Faf du Plessis, another ideal candidate for the no.4 spot, is adamant on continuing at 5 which means Bavuma will have to don the role, whether he likes it or not. He might as well look to settle in at the new position even though de Villiers’ return later in the year could mean another reshuffle.

 

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