India in SA

Harris sure to get nod

2010-11-30 19:14
Lone spinner? Paul Harris. (Gallo)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Paul Harris is extremely likely to be the lone spinner in the South African squad to be chosen on Wednesday for the major home Test series against India.

The great “Harris v Johan Botha” debate is thus going to be put on hold for the time being – the off-spinner will almost certainly make way altogether as the Proteas beef up their seam resources instead to suit local conditions for the three-Test series featuring the world’s two top-ranked sides.

Selection chief Andrew Hudson confirmed to Sport24 that the squad would be chosen on Wednesday “although maybe not actually announced immediately”.

He is also keen that it be a 13-strong party – and for all three encounters at Centurion (from December 16), Durban and Cape Town – in an intended show of confidence and stability in the country’s foremost five-day players.

It should not require a rocket scientist to work out that plans will predominantly be based around a four-man seam attack, including veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis, with Harris for the left-arm spin factor and a reserve batsman and fast bowler respectively to complete the 13.

The only possible complicating factor might arise if there is ongoing concern about captain Graeme Smith’s prospects of making the Centurion cut, as he recovers – suitably swiftly, by most accounts – from another hand fracture.

“We may discuss at the meeting the possibility of a specialist opener being put (on standby),” said Hudson. “But as far as I am aware Graeme has been cleared.”

As things stand the extremely handy “spare” batsman in the Test squad is JP Duminy, although he would not come into the reckoning to open and if there is a late Smith setback someone like Dean Elgar, Imraan Khan or Jacques Rudolph might be summoned.

Harris is not everyone’s cup of tea as the first-choice Test spinner, but he slightly out-bowled Botha statistically when they paired up against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.

The former picked up seven wickets at 32.85 in unfavourable conditions in the drawn two-Test series, with Botha getting six at 48.83.

But the Proteas are often comfortable with Harris largely “choking up an end” while the faster men strike at the other, and in the UAE he was typically tight with an economy rate of 1.84 over the two encounters.

He would have the advantage over Botha of taking the ball away from India’s battery of stellar right-handed batsmen.

Interestingly, the Indians have often laboured more against standard left-arm spinners who don’t turn the ball a great deal, rather than supposedly trickier off-break or leg-spin customers.

England’s now-retired Ashley Giles has sometimes been compared with Harris, although their Test careers did not coincide, and he once famously tied up Sachin Tendulkar and company in knots at Ahmedabad.

Admittedly helped by a controversial, negative “leg-stump line” and packed leg-side field during the captaincy tenure of Nasser Hussain, Giles returned remarkable first-innings figures of five for 67 in 43 overs of grim attrition.

Harris didn’t take long to get under Indian skins either, claiming five wickets on Test debut against them at Newlands in January 2007, including four in the first knock.

*According to Cricinfo, it has been confirmed that the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) will not be in use during the coming series, India’s already known reluctance to employ it being the swaying factor.


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