Bangladesh's-trial-by-fire
Bangladesh have done well in ODIs recently © Getty Images

Bangladesh have made steady progress since ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. They beat Pakistan and India in One-Day International (ODI) series and are starting to click as a unit consistently. Their true test will be the series against South Africa, feels Nikhil Popat.

Bangladesh in recent years have grown tremendously in terms of consistency and hunger for success. They have always had the odd stretch where they upset bigger nations with a compelling performance but of late, they have managed to string in a series of good performances to beat the top sides. They have finally come of age, beating first Pakistan and then India in a One-Day International (ODI) series. READ: South Africa apologise for breaching Bangladesh security protocol

Bangladesh might not have the same venom in Tests, but they seem to be a different kettle of fish in coloured clothing; something Suresh Raina would completely understand. Bangladesh have lost just one ODI out of the last six they have played. It might be a small sample size, but it is enough to describe how good the hosts have been, since those six matches have come against Pakistan and India.

Beating Pakistan was just the start as the hosts showed tremendous skill and temperament to go after the Pakistan bowling. Then came India, and Bangladesh caught them unprepared in the first ODI.  The hosts then outclassed them in all three departments in the second game to win the series. It showed how much they have improved over the years, and seemed to have finally outgrown the ‘minnows’ tag. But with success comes pressure of expectations and things then start to go out of bounds. Bangladesh would know the challenge that awaits them when they host South Africa. READ: South Africa aim to start fresh in Bangladesh

Bangladesh have an astute leader in Mashrafe Mortaza and he has led the team very well with controlled aggression and attacking instincts. It is almost as if ODI cricket has been revisited since ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, where the Brendon McCullum-led New Zealand showed one and all how attacking cricket all the time is the way forward. But everything has a fine thread and to mix caution with aggression is the challenge that awaits Bangladesh.

That they beat India without any telling contributions from their two mainstays Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim speaks volumes for how good Bangladesh have been at home. They are no longer dependent on certain individuals for their success. Tamim Iqbal has put in the hard yards at last and has started to score consistently. He scored two tons in the series against Pakistan and had a decent outing against India too. Soumya Sarkar has impressed one and all with his stroke-play and remains a bright prospect for the hosts. READ: Sohag Gazi recalled to Bangladesh squad for T20Is against South Africa

Mahmudullah was injured during the India series but he had an impressive 2015 World Cup. With Litton Das stepping up and Nasir Hossain and Sabbir Rahman chipping in with vital contributions, the batting unit seems to be gelling well.  With no Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel for the T20Is one would expect Bangladesh to have more than a real chance to beat South Africa. The Proteas’ bowling becomes their obvious weakness but Bangladesh’s test will come against the batting of the visitors.

Mustafizur Rahman had a dream series against India, picking up as many as 13 wickets in the three one-dayers but it will be difficult and harsh to expect him to continue in the same vein. His cutters caught India unaware but you trust a team like South Africa to be more prepared. The form of Shakib with the ball might worry them. Their strength has changed from spin to pace but he remains one of the best — if not the very best — all-rounders in the game. Bangladesh will need Shakib’s experience to beat South Africa. READ: Bangladesh tour will be tough, says South Africa coach Russell Domingo

The pair of Taskin Ahmed and Rubel have had a good deal of success recently and coming up against a team which has some world class batsmen, they will be tested for sure. Mortaza will have to lead them with the ball as well as they play the Twenty20 Internationals first.

AB de Villiers has been good touch but if Bangladesh can get past him and Faf du Plessis, they will have more than a chance in the ODIs. With due respect to the rest of the South African batsmen, not many have played in Bangladesh before and if the hosts can put pressure on the visitors by playing their brand of cricket, the visitors might crumble. South Africa might have the best in the business but the pressure makes people do silly things and we all know how the Proteas respond to pressure.

Whatever happens, the rise of Bangladesh as an ODI team is credible and if Bangladesh can maintain the level of consistency they have shown recently, don’t be surprised if South Africa get a hiding from the hosts. READ: Faf du Plessis excited to lead a young South African side against Bangladesh

(Nikhil Popat is a diehard cricket enthusiast and a PotterHead till the end of time. He can be followed on Twitter @CricCrazyNIKS)