Three off-spinners in SA’s test XI? Why not?

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

NOBODY blinks when SA name three right-arm fast bowlers in the same attack. So why not a pair of off-spinners in the XI?

Dane Piedt and Simon Harmer are those off-spinners. Both should be in SA’s team for two tests in Bangladesh in July. But cricket is nothing if not conservative and that is unlikely.

Piedt’s match haul of 8/152 against Zimbabwe in Harare in August are the best figures by a SA spinner on test debut. Harmer took his bow against West Indies at Newlands in January and claimed 7/152.

“Bangladesh always seem to have three or four left-handers in their top seven so maybe it’s not a bad idea to have two off-spinners in there turning the ball away from them,” former SA left-arm spinner Robin Peterson said on Tuesday. “Besides, you should go with your best spinners whatever they bowl.

“Dane is probably more attacking than Simon, who is more of a containing bowler. So they complement each other.”

Piedt described himself Tuesday as “nice and aggressive and nice and patient”, and elaborated: “I’m known as an aggressive bowler and when I was in the (SA) set-up they told me to keep doing what I do.”

Harmer has an economy rate of 2.82 for Monton and Weaste in the Central Lancashire League Premier Division this English summer. He also has an innings of 92 for the club to his credit. That has got the attention of Sussex, who said on Tuesday they had offered him a trial.

Two spinners is a good option given Bangladeshi conditions. But with an off-spinner, JP Duminy, already in the mix SA will no doubt balk at picking two more. That they both deserve to play will matter little.

Leg spinner Imran Tahir finished second among SA’s wicket-takers at the 2015 World Cup and only five bowlers had more scalps than his 15 going into Tuesday’s match in the Indian Premier League.

Tahir’s shining moment as a test bowler came when he took five wickets on the first morning against Pakistan in Dubai in October, 2013 in conditions akin to what SA will face in Bangladesh and against similarly skittish opposition.

But he has missed 14 of SA’s 19 tests since his meltdown against Australia in Adelaide in November, 2012 – when his match return of 0/260 became the most expensive wicketless performance in test history.

Left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso’s name will come up. But he has played only 11 of his 60 first-class matches at franchise level in a career spanning almost 11 years.

On top of all that no first-class cricket is scheduled for SA or SA A before the Bangladesh series. So picking Piedt and Harmer must be the way to go.

Piedt is back in Cape Town after a holiday he deserved in the wake of the serious shoulder injury he sustained in September.

“I’m 100%; it’s in the past now,” he said of the setback. “I had five months of rehab in Cape Town and (going to Dubai) was the best thing I could have done. It cleared my head.”

Here’s hoping the selectors know that feeling.

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