For the last three days, since landing at the city of Port Elizabeth which is now called Gqberha, the biggest point of discussion in the Bangladesh camp has been the wind. It’s a beautiful city, according to many it is the most gorgeous one in South Africa right after Cape Town. It doesn’t have any real hustle and bustle as most people come here to spend their holidays or to spend their retirement years in peace. The safety concerns that take up a lot of space in one’s mind when they are in the other places in South Africa, take a back seat when you enter this city.

There is one main road on the edge of the sea, from which other smaller roads have diverged and entered this picturesque city. The city is surrounded by the sea from two sides, so the wind sways you from one side to the other. There are hardly any high-rise buildings, so the wind has a clear path to move around the same way everywhere in the city. St. Geroge’s Park, the venue of the second Test between Bangladesh and South Africa, is nearer to the sea and as a result is more prone to the will of the wind.

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The second and final Test of the tour will begin today (Friday). Before the match, the prime worry of the Bangladesh team is the wind in Port Elizabeth. In all other grounds, usually, teams form their XI and decide what to do if they win the toss keeping the opposition and the wicket in mind. But at the St. George’s Park, the wind will also play a part in the decision. Due to the excessive wind, even a sure-shot six could fall inside the ropes and a top-edge could end up in the stands. The wind could also make the ball deviate in line ever so slightly.

The Tigers will be playing their first ever match in Port Elizabeth. But they can draw from their experience of playing in the windiest city in the world, Wellington. And they have to play at the venue, regardless, so dreading the extra wind is pointless. Skipper Mominul Haque also said the same during an online press-conference held on Thursday.

“You will come across different situations in different places. It’s one way in England, different in New Zealand and again different in South Africa. Adapting to different places while playing the game is important. We are mentally preparing ourselves accordingly,” said the skipper.

Tamim Iqbal has recovered from his illness and is set to return to the team which means Shadman Islam, who played in the Durban Test, will have to sit out. Pacer Taskin Ahmed, who has returned to Bangladesh after getting injured, could be replaced in the XI by left-arm spinner Taijul Islam. But Bangladesh’s head coach and a resident of this city, Russell Domingo, wants to assess the conditions on the morning of the Test before taking the call on playing another spinner alongside Mehidy Hasan Miraz. There is also a chance of rain during the Test. If they win the toss, unlike the first Test, the team will leave no scope for debate and opt to bat first. The slow pitch at St. George’s Park also supports that decision. Although Domingo has left the decision up to Mominul, he himself once again voted in favour of batting first.

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The previous Test at the St George’s Park took place on January 2020. In that game, South Africa lost to England by an innings. But host spinner Keshav Maharaj, who took a seven-fer in the second innings of the first Test against Bangladesh, took a five-wicket haul in the only innings he got to bowl against the English. England’s off-spinner Dom Bess also took five wickets in that Test. The recent success of spinners at the St George’s Park is encouraging Bangladesh to replace a pacer in Taskin with a spinner in Taijul. But the skipper hasn’t taken his final decision yet, “We are not thinking about what has happened here before. This time things can be different. Tomorrow (Friday) morning, we will take another look at the wicket before deciding whether we will play an extra pacer or spinner.”

The BCB (Bangladesh Cricket Board) president himself has questioned the team’s decision to bowl first in the Durban Test. There is some quiet discomfort in the team before the Port Elizabeth Test. The war of words with the South African cricketers could also add extra pressure and add fuel to the fire.

Although Mominul Haque has backtracked a bit from his earlier stance, it’s clear from the comments made by South Africa’s captain Dean Elgar that the hosts didn’t like the accusations made by the Bangladesh team about excessive sledging. By saying that Bangladesh’s complaints are baseless and the tourists are not used to playing a competitive brand of cricket the Protea skipper tried to legitimise sledging!

The fiery words of Elgar hints that a fiery Test awaits at the windy city of Port Elizabeth.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and was rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy.

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