South Africa lead 2-Test series 1-0    Getty Images
South Africa lead 2-Test series 1-0 Getty Images

There may have been debates over two-Test series being inadequate in cooking enough spice, but Bangladesh have proved it wrong time and again. Being unreasonably rated as underdogs, not many teams wish to play a three-match series against them. Let alone two matches, India hosted them for a solitary Test. By the time Bangladesh adjusted to the conditions, India were running victory laps.

That being said, Bangladesh managed to draw two-Test series 1-1 against England and Australia and on Sri Lankan soil. It is an often-reminded fact that rubs salt on the already-inflicted wounds of the three nations, but it is also an alarming trend that evidences Bangladesh s swift rise.

You may laugh at the prospect of Bangladesh levelling the ongoing series against South Africa (especially after being levelled to the ground in the first Test), but Bangladesh can be at their best after being at their worst or vice versa. You can, in fact, ridicule me for this. After posing 320 in the first innings, they were shot down below 100 on the final day. It took less than 90 minutes for Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj to humiliate the visitors on the final morning. Imagine the chaos had there been Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, and a fit Morne Morkel.

Game plan

It all depends on Bangladesh. They can surprise South Africa and the word history will be annoyingly yet rightly used in reports, articles, interviews. But for that to happen, they will have to visit the pitch before the match and cut the grass that the home team had demanded to decorate it with.

Faf du Plessis was taken aback by the nature of track observed at Potchefstroom. It was lifeless, posing no threat to his team. Perhaps he was bored and wanted some adventure. The case, however, will be different at Bloemfontein. The thick, green-coloured film resting in the middle of the ground would give nightmares to the batsmen. They are nonetheless fortunate that the showers are expected to ruin the game only on the second day. Otherwise the sun is likely to smile upon the picturesque Mangaung Oval.

Who plays and who doesn t?

With Morkel befriending injury, Wayne Parnell may get a nod unless South Africa want to experiment with the amateur Dane Paterson. The rest remains unchanged.

Likely XI for South Africa: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Andile Phehlukwayo, Wayne Parnell/Dane Paterson, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier

Tamim Iqbal batted at No. 5 in the first innings and opened in the second. He, however, will be not part at the Bloemfontein due to thigh injury. Soumya Sarkar would be busy shadow-practising against the South African quicks. Remember, they are also missing Shakib Al Hasan, the greatest cricketer in the history of the nation.

Likely XI for Bangladesh: Imrul Kayes, Soumya Sarkar, Mominul Haque, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim (c), Sabbir Rahman, Liton Das (wk), Mehidy Hasan, Shafiul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed/Subashis Roy

Predictions

This will only be the fifth Test at the venue, and the second between these teams. The last time they met here was in 2008: South Africa pinned down Bangladesh for 159 and 153, winning the match by an innings and 129 runs. If Mushfiqur Rahim does not motivate his team to punch well above their weight, the march back to being underdogs will not be far away.

TIME: 13:30 IST | 8:00 GMT