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
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
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