Cape Town – At a time when he is experiencing another
frustratingly lean trot at the crease, JP Duminy’s second skill could yet come
into play meaningfully over the last three days of the first Test between New
Zealand and South Africa in Dunedin.
The Black Caps held a slight edge after day two on Thursday,
trailing the Proteas by only 131 runs with seven first-innings wickets in hand -
albeit one of them an awkwardly walking-wounded Ross Taylor, plagued by a calf
issue - and captain Kane Williamson looking languidly in command on 78 not out.
But there is also just enough, at this near-midway point of
the contest, in the interesting University Oval strip to suggest a continuation
of relatively see-sawing fortunes and perhaps even flurries of wickets a bit
out of the blue.
Kiwi commentators seem adamant that turn will become
increasingly pronounced as the game grinds on, and spin has already had some
impact in the dismissals column - a couple for Jeetan Patel in the SA innings
of 308 and two also for Keshav Maharaj in the developing NZ knock of 177 for
The very fact that the Black Caps deployed slow bowlers -
Patel and Mitchell Santner - for as many as 51 of the 122.4 overs the tourists
faced, batting first, is an indication in itself that the trade will continue
to wield influence toward the business end of the Test.
That is where Duminy’s off-spin could come into its own if -
and it is a relatively big if, you might argue - skipper Faf du Plessis shows
sufficient confidence in getting him properly busy at an end.
The undoubtedly talented, versatile Duminy, still also a
first-rate fielder, has been having a rough old time of it in batting terms in
recent weeks, across the international formats, and it was just his wretched
luck that he should cop a near-unplayable delivery to dismiss him for one off
two deliveries in his first dig in Dunedin.
He has managed a top score of just 34 in seven completed
innings in New Zealand (five ODIs, one Twenty20, one in this Test so far) and
hadn’t set the world alight in the prior ODI series at home to Sri Lanka,
It will inevitably be playing on his mind, although it
should also be pointed out to Duminy’s detractors that the diminutive
left-hander doesn’t deserve to be considered on borrowed time in the Test
environment specifically just yet – in his last outing, he top-scored with a
swollen 155 in a Wanderers thrashing of the ‘Lankans.
But if there is undoubtedly a more general “wobble” taking
place in his fortunes at the crease at present, he still has another innings to
rectify things in this fixture … plus a rosy enough chance, you have to
imagine, of a tidy contribution as bowler.
Frankly, it seems a little overdue for Duminy to put in
greater industry as “fifth element” in the Proteas attack, even if there have
also been plenty of times where he simply hasn’t been needed to any meaningful
Too frequently in the last few months - and more - the
player has been merely summoned as an “over or two before tea or a new ball”
sort of factor at Test level, suggesting some anxiety over his potential to be
effective either in run-restricting or strike terms.
In 14 Tests since he registered extremely useful figures of
15-4-27-3 against Bangladesh in Dhaka (August 2015), Duminy has bowled
glaringly fitfully – a total of 45 overs, with only one spell amounting to
double figures in number-of-overs terms.
But if spin does become a decisive element in determining
which way the first Test goes, the Proteas, like their hosts, may wish to have
more than one slow bowler doing the vital donkeywork.
With Maharaj a left-arm spinner, Duminy could just be
influential, given some patience and faith in him, in turning the ball the
other way, into the New Zealand right-handers.
He has had a fairly trademark, of late, solitary over in the
Test thus far.
Unless one or two of the SA quicker men are going to thrive
in the reverse-swing department, which is also a fair likelihood, a gut feel
tells me that figure for Duminy might expand a fair bit …
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