SA spin: Smashed to smithereens!

2019-10-05 17:09
Dane Piedt (left) and Keshav Maharaj (Getty).
Dane Piedt (left) and Keshav Maharaj (Getty).

Cape Town – The Proteas have a chance on Sunday to determinedly drop anchor at the crease and save the first Test against India at Visakhapatnam … a draw would be a very heartening result to a fragile side in the throes of rebuild.

The victory target (395) set them by Virat Kohli seems well out of reach, especially with primary first-innings hero Dean Elgar already back in the hut and South Africa 11 for one at stumps.

So the last-day mission seems simple: resist.

It will be a tall order on a wearing pitch -- and even if they do shut up shop successfully, the tourists will have some awkward team-composition issues to grapple with before the circus shifts onward in the three-Test series to Pune.

The Proteas took a spin-heavy approach to the first encounter, fielding three specialists in regular first-choice Keshav Maharaj, plus Dane Piedt and debutant Senuran Muthusamy.

While Maharaj bagged five wickets across the two innings and was especially impressive for both his stamina (in a formidable 55-over load) and economy in the Indian first knock, the other two were notably less successful.

Off-spinner Piedt ended his bowling contribution to the match with one for 209 – in only 36 overs, meaning an expensive economy rate of 5.81 – while Muthusamy got one for 83 and an overall concession rate of 5.43.

The latter only sent down a paltry three overs in the second innings, which rather begged the question of whether it was wise playing a second orthodox left-arm spinner to main figure Maharaj.

That Muthusamy made some valuable first-innings runs (33 not out at No 8) should be considered little more than a bonus: will there really be enough reason, going forward in the series, to have him offering largely the same trade as his more experienced Dolphins colleague does?

Whatever the result on Sunday, the brains trust will have to seriously consider either adding an extra seamer to the mix – both Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada kept an acceptable enough lid on things in typically unhelpful conditions – or bolstering the still vulnerable batting through Zubayr Hamza.

Being able to build pressure and stifle the opposition run rate is almost as important a skill as striking in the wickets column for spinners on the Subcontinent, and both Piedt and Muthusamy, frankly, failed on all counts in Visakhapatnam.

Piedt is the likelier to hold onto his place for the second Test, in the hope that he finds better rhythm after his long off-season back home, and benefiting from his different angle of attack to Maharaj.

Statistics don’t lie and it is a cold fact that the SA spinners, between them, have been overwhelmingly responsible for some records in this Test that only demonstrate how contemptuously they were often treated by twin century-maker Rohit Sharma (176 and 127), in particular.

This match has seen India post the most sixes in any Test match: 27.

It beats off the prior landmark of 22 by New Zealand against Pakistan in 2014.

Meanwhile Sharma, who was always so willing to waltz down the track to the Proteas slow bowlers, was responsible for 13 of them alone (six in the first knock, seven in his second) – making him the new record-holder for most sixes by an individual in a specific Test match.

He eclipses Pakistani all-rounder Wasim Akram, who struck 12 against Zimbabwe in 1996.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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Sunday, 23 February 2020
South Africa v Australia, , Port Elizabeth 14:30
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