Mohammad Ashraful has rather personified Bangladesh: capable of fleeting brilliance, as when hitting a sublime Test century off Murali – at 17 - or scoring a ODI century against Australia, his batting has too often been characterised by injudicious stroke play. For all his palpable talent, he averages only in the low-20s in both forms of international cricket.
But against South Africa, he played with refreshing selectivity and intelligence to rebuild an innings that had collapsed to 84/4. His penchant for the spectacular has never been in doubt; but he first consolidated with Aftab Ahmed, then played second fiddle in a mature manner. Only when Ahmed was out did Ashraful launch his onslaught.
And what an onslaught it was. Ashraful accelerated in thrilling style, playing outrageous shots, and regularly flicking the ball over short fine leg. It is an extraordinary shot but clearly works for him. Amazingly, Ashraful, one of the most experienced players in the side, remains just 22. He must remember this thrilling but wonderfully well-paced innings, and use it as the template for future knocks. If he is to do so, he will become one of the most exhilarating batsmen on the world stage.
In beating their second major side of the tournament, Bangladesh have proved they have developed immeasurably in recent years, and should now be considered closer to the eight established nations than the minnows. They are a vivacious side who possess a number of batting prodigies, a fine pace bowler in Mashrafe Mortaza and a number of international-class left-arm spinners; spin accounted for six South African wickets.
But it is the incredible youth of the side that really excites. They clearly have the exuberance and raw talent to become established international players – as maturity brings improved powers of concentration, this should apply to Test cricket too.