Bangladesh’s Test record remains dismal despite a stellar improvement in ODI cricket which saw the Tigers posted series wins against Pakistan, India and South Africa following their first-ever appearance in the quarter-finals of the World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand.
The Asian minnows have won just seven of their previous 91 Tests, with five of them against fellow strugglers Zimbabwe and the remaining two against an under-strength West Indies side.
But just like in the shorter format, an upward trend is also visible in Tests since January 2013, when Bangladesh played 16 Tests, lost just six, won four and drew the rest.
During the period, they swept Zimbabwe 3-0 and managed creditable draws against Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Pakistan and India, mainly at home.
Now faced with the daunting prospect of tackling top-ranked South Africa, Bangladesh see a draw as a realistic target.
“I think a batting-friendly pitch would be best for us,” said opening batsman Imrul Kayes. “If we can score over 400 runs the game will head towards a draw.
“Against the number one Test team in the world, a draw would be a big achievement.
“The team is in a good rhythm. We won the last four ODI series at home. I think that if we can replicate our ODI form in the Tests, there will be something good for Bangladesh.”
South Africa will look to bounce back from their embarrassing 1-2 defeat in the preceding ODI series, where they were drubbed by heavy margins of seven wickets and nine wickets in the last two matches.
Fearsome fast bowler Dale Styen heads a group of eight players back in the fray after missing the ODI series, who coach Russell Domingo said will add fresh energy to the team.
“We have to move on,” Domingo told the Cricket South Africa website.
“It was a disappointing finish to our one-day series after starting well in the T20’s,” Domingo said, referring to their 2-0 win in Twenty20 international series before the ODIs.
“We have eight new players here which is always great; there is new energy, new ideas and some experience with guys like Dale (Steyn) joining the side.”
The Proteas, who are in a rebuilding process following the retirement of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Alviro Petersen in recent years, will miss the services of batting mainstay AB de Villiers.
De Villiers, who flew back home after Twenty20s, was given a break from the ODI and Test series for personal reasons, snapping an unbroken run of 98 consecutive Tests.
The second and final Test will be played in Dhaka from July 30 to August 3.
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Litton Das, Mominul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Mahmudullah, Soumya Sarkar, Nasir Hossain, Taijul Islam, Jubair Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Mohammad Shahid, Mustafizur Rahman.
South Africa: Hashim Amla (capt), Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Dean Elgar, Reeza Hendricks, Stiaan van Zyl, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Simon Harmer, Temba Bavuma, Dane Vilas. -AFP