SA must stabilise spin berth

2015-06-18 06:41
Simon Harmer (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - It seems foolhardy for the Proteas to select anyone but incumbent Simon Harmer as main spinner when they start the first of two Tests in Bangladesh in just over a month’s time.

There has been an unusual fluidity to the role over the course of the last two series, against Zimbabwe (a once-off Test last winter) and then the 2014/15 home series against West Indies.

First young off-spinning debutant Dane Piedt of the Cape Cobras was the eye-opening man-of-the-match in the Harare game, with an overall analysis of eight for 152, but then he badly injured his shoulder and has battled to recover best form subsequently.

South Africa then went all-seam for the first Test against the Caribbean tourists at Centurion, fielded their limited-overs leg-spinning ace Imran Tahir in the second and gave another first stab at the premier format to the Warriors’ Simon Harmer in the closing encounter at Newlands over New Year – the last time the world’s top-ranked side played Test cricket.

The 26-year-old impressed independent analysts like former England “offie” Graeme Swann on that occasion, as he grabbed 3/71 and 4/82 respectively in the series-clinching victory.

Harmer has duly been included in the five-day squad for the all-formats Bangladeshi tour - it starts with the one-day stuff - but the slightly surprising presence also of Aaron Phangiso, the left-arm customer from the Lions, has raised suggestions that the latter might be fast-tracked to the XI in Chittagong from July 21 despite his modest record at first-class level.

Yet it seems likelier, reading between the lines, that Phangiso - who hugely deserves decent game time in the one-dayers after being the only wholly idle member of the World Cup squad earlier this year -- will only play if the pitch is a truly raging turner and warrants the omission of a staple fast bowler so both he and Harmer can turn out.

At the recent Cricket South Africa awards in Johannesburg, Test skipper Hashim Amla told a scrum of journalists at a briefing that he thought the Proteas would go into the first Test “with the same attack” - meaning the one which did duty last time out at Newlands.

The specialists then were the traditional pace trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, plus the impressive rookie Harmer.

Happily for the Proteas, batting all-rounder JP Duminy, who missed that entire series through injury, is back in the mix and will provide a credible fifth bowling option again with his own, ever-improving brand of off-spin.

One of the arguments being used to suggest Phangiso may instead team up with Duminy for slow-bowling duty at Chittagong is his different style of attack as a left-armer, rather than South Africa fielding two off-break bowlers in Harmer and Duminy.

But since when has a part-timer’s trade been used as the key element to determine who the primary spinner should be?

That sounds a highly dubious principle, and it is hard to envisage coach Russell Domingo and the rest of the brains trust falling into the trap.

It is time to stop the chopping and changing and place some faith in an incumbent; Harmer fully warrants another crack after his Cape Town effort, where he got some turn and drift and mixed up his pace well, and it should not be forgotten that he offers some usefulness as a tail-end batsman too.

He boasts a first-class century and an average of close to 30.

*Phangiso, Piedt and Duminy are among players who have been taking part in a CSA spin bowling camp this week, given the volume of approaching cricket for both the Proteas and SA ‘A’ looming on the Subcontinent.

 *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cricket

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