TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
Along with the rest of the SA squad in St Kitts preparing for their triseries match against Australia on Saturday, Tabraiz Shamsi knows he is not in Guyana anymore.
“I don’t think you’re going to find bigger fields (than Providence), besides maybe in Australia, in the world,” left-arm wrist spinner Shamsi said. “So that was nice as a spinner – to get a turning track with a big field to go with it.
“They say cricket’s a batsman’s game, and this (Guyana) leg showed they’re probably just making us bowlers feel good before they start giving us some big hits again.”
Indeed, Warner Park, where Saturday’s game will be played, is among the smallest grounds in the international game and therefore a friend to those big hitters.
“You’re given a small field and you’re just got to make the best of it and come up with a plan. Hopefully it works.”
It worked for Shamsi last year, when he played for the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). That meant his home games were at Warner Park.
Shamsi was his team’s leading wicket-taker with 11 scalps at an average of 13.27. In the wider CPL, among bowlers who sent down at least 100 deliveries, he was fifth on the wickets list and third in the averages as well as strike rate and 10th in the economy rate stakes.
Most impressively, he claimed both of his four-wicket hauls in the tournament at cute and cosy Warner Park. Andre Russell, Dwayne Smith and Justin Holder were among his victims. Six of the eight were bowled, trapped in front or stumped – not caught on the boundary.
Called up by Royal Challengers Bangalore to replace the injured Samuel Badree in this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), Shamsi played three games and took 3/147. Not too flash, but those wickets belonged to Ajinkya Rahane, Brendon McCullum and David Warner.
“Things like the CPL and the IPL certainly do help when you play against players like that. It gives you confidence and it’s about the mental side of things more than anything else. It gives you an edge.”
Shamsi’s performance in those tournaments prompted his inclusion in SA’s triseries squad. He made his debut in Providence on Tuesday, and took 1/36 in an attack that beat Australia despite having been given only 190 runs to bowl at. Glenn Maxwell was his man, albeit with a little help from umpire Joel Wilson, who failed to see the delivery would slide past leg stump.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start but the most important thing was that we got the win,” Shamsi said. “AB (de Villiers) didn’t give me a chance to get nervous. He just gave the me the ball and said I’m bowling that over. That was pretty good – he just threw me into the deep end.
“The pitch was quite helpful, that’s why we played three spinners. In the Caribbean all the pitches turn.”
Despite that Shamsi could find himself confined to the dugout on Saturday. Warner Park should offer a faster pitch than Providence, and the odds on SA fielding a trio of spinners twice in two games are about as long as those on Russell Domingo getting his share of the credit for the win over the Aussies.
So two spinners would make more sense. Thing is, which two? The classy, experienced Imran Tahir has to be the first choice. Which leaves Shamsi and Aaron Phangiso – whose more defensive left-arm orthodox could crack that nod.
But who would have thought all three would play in Providence? And who would have thought SA would win after their poor batting effort?
Shamsi probably did, and in both cases. Confidence can do that to you.