Simon Harmer’s four-wicket haul in the third Test against West Indies was enough to give the off-spinner this week’s Most Valuable Player award.
There were strong and valid arguments for Dale Steyn who also took four, and Morne Morkel, who although largely unrewarded did so much to undermine the confidence of the West Indies. In a way, they set up Harmer, because the West Indies felt they could go after the debutant.
But Harmer edges the award because of two wickets in particular: those of Kraigg Brathwaite, on day three, and then Marlon Samuels on that amazing fourth day, when the West Indies were bowled out for 215, giving the Proteas a target of 124.
Brathwaite had proved in Port Elizabeth that he can hang tough, scoring 106. but Harmer got him with a beauty that spun back from outside off and took the off stump. That, with Morkel taking out Devon Smith, put the West Indies two down at the end of play.
Given the fragile nature of the West Indies’ confidence, they started day four in the afternoon knowing they had to dig in. Marlon Samuels and Shivnarine Chanderpaul did just that for 18 overs, and Samuels particularly targeted Harmer. One four-over spell cost him 30 runs. But it is a measure of his maturity and determination that he kept at it until Samuels tried to go for a big one and was caught. He might even have had Chanderpaul, but AB de Villiers spilled the chance.
That really signalled the end for the Windies. He cleaned up the tail, ending with four wickets in the innings and seven in the match. But more than that, he showed South Africa have a decent spin option.