Bangladesh would have been forgiven for wanting to disappear into the hole that was opened in the ground where a slip might have stood to a spinner at the cemetery end during the third one-day international at Buffalo Park on Sunday.
The visitors were deep into the death throes of their hopeless reply to SA’s 369/6 when David Miller stepped onto, and broke, the brittle plastic cover that had kept the hole, which was about 20cm in diameter, safely out of play.
Groundstaff fixed the problem smartly, and SA got on with completing their victory, which they achieved by 200 runs.
Bangladesh were dismissed for 169 in 40.4 overs for SA to seal a 3-0 series whitewash, which followed SA’s 2-0 win in the Tests.
Anything other than two more triumphs in the T20s, which are in Bloemfontein on Thursday and Potchefstroom on Sunday, would count as an embarrassing failure for the South Africans.
The home side’s total on Sunday was a record high in their 21 ODIs against these opponents and in all 22 games in the format at this ground.
And it had drama in the form of Faf du Plessis’s march to a century being halted when he left the field on Miller’s back.
Du Plessis collapsed at the crease and clutched his lower back after turning for a second run in the 41st over.
On-field medical treatment failed to resolve the issue, and SA’s captain was piggybacked by Miller — himself out of action with a groin strain — to the dressingroom.
Team management said Du Plessis had suffered an acute lower back strain. He is out of the T20s — in which SA will now be captained by JP Duminy. Dwaine Pretorius will replace De Plessis in the squad.
It was an inelegant end to the elegance of Du Plessis’s 91, which flowed off 67 balls with 10 fours and a six.
His day started well when he won the toss for the first time in the five matches Bangladesh have played on their tour and made the sensible decision to bat on a willing pitch.
The run glut was started by Temba Bavuma — who replaced the rested Hashim Amla — and Quinton de Kock, who shared 119 off 107 balls in a bustling stand for the first wicket.
Both were caught trying to force the pace and both fell to off-spinner Mehidy Hasan, Bavuma at long-on for 48 and De Kock by the bowler for 73.
Du Plessis and Aiden Markram, who came in for Duminy and made his debut in the format, put on 151 off 114 deliveries before Du Plessis was carried off the field. Neither was dismissed by Bangladesh’s anaemic bowling — five balls after Du Plessis left the scene Markram was run out by Imrul Kayes’s superb direct hit from midwicket trying to take two.
AB de Villiers clipped 20 off the first 14 balls he faced, which included a towering six over extra cover off Mashrafe Mortaza. But De Villiers sliced his next delivery, which was bowled by Rubel Hossain, into the covers and was caught.
SA lost five wickets for 52 — Du Plessis’s and that of 19-year-old debutant Wiaan Mulder included — before Farhaan Behardien and Kagiso Rabada righted them with an unbroken stand of 34 off 18 balls.
With De Villiers regaining the reins he relinquished to Du Plessis in August, Bangladesh were reduced to 20/3 inside five overs and to 61/5 midway through the 15th, when
whatever tension was left in the match dissipated and all concerned sat back and went through the motions until the last wicket fell.
"It’s easy to captain the team when they play like that," De Villiers said.