South Africa’s batsmen need to give left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj something to bowl at if they want him to take advantage at St George’s Park, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
The wicket is likely to take some turn but … the spinner will need some assistance from his top order if he’s to thrive.
Their are some pretty difficult jobs in South Africa at the moment. President Cyril Ramaphosa, for example, is trying to run a country struggling to keep the lights on. He is constantly being tagged on Twitter by people moaning about the state of this country, and I’m sure he sometimes wishes he were Judy Boucher to ‘be in two places at the same time’.
The Springbok coaching job is another position that requires a lot of patience.
Over the last couple of years Rassie Erasmus went from villain to hero, then back to villain before lifting the World Cup and becoming a hero again. He decided to leave all the stress to someone else, probably thinking ‘Dankie tog‘, while sipping a cold Castle and admiring his World Cup-winner’s medal.
However, there is another occupation that is just as demanding and polarising. It’s a thankless job, which often requires you to toil for long hours in the hot sun. You often don’t get the reward in this country you get in other places around the world, and your contributions often go unnoticed.
Yes, the life of the spinner in South Africa is rather difficult, especially when you are bowling in conditions which doesn’t suit you. The fast bowlers get all the headlines and the glory, while it seems the spinners only get attention when they go for runs.
But somebody has to do it, and South Africa’s premier spinner Keshav Maharaj has shown that he has the right demeanour and skill to do the dirty work for the team.
However, the left-arm tweaker will be licking his chops ahead of the third Test against England, which starts in Port Elizabeth on Thursday because, for once, he may get a pitch that actually assists his bowling.
St George’s Park is not as quick as the other pitches around the country, with spin normally playing a major part early on in a Test match. It’s also a venue which assists reverse swing, but the spinners definitely come into their own as the ball tends to turn off of the straight.
Maharaj is a handful on a pitch that takes turn.
You don’t take nine wickets in an innings on the sub-continent if you don’t know what you’re doing.
His rhythm looked slightly off in the New Year’s Test in Cape Town after bowling so well on a seamer-friendly pitch at SuperSport Park in Centurion. It looks like he is trying to undercut the ball, instead of bowling with that loopy flight outside off-stump, which creates indecision in the batsman’s mind whether to come forward or not.
We may also see him use the crease a bit more, and bowl with a much more attacking mindset on the PE surface, which will make it difficult for the England right-hand batsmen to use their feet against him, which they did so successfully at Newlands.
However, for Maharaj to be successful the Proteas batsmen also needs to come to the party, which they didn’t do at Newlands. That is key for your spinner to build pressure and bowl to a plan.
England could take a few more risks against Maharaj because of their first-innings lead, while the platform set meant they could target the lefty on the fourth morning. For all his skill and ability, he needs to runs to play with if he is going to be effective, even more so in spin-friendly conditions.
Yep, being a spinner is a thankless job in South Africa, and sometimes you need a little help from your (batsmen) friends.
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