TELFORD VICE, Hobart
WHAT a difference a match makes, particularly at test level. And even more so when your team wins.
For South African left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj that match was the first test against Australia at the WACA, where he made his debut.
South Africa won by 177 runs despite losing Dale Steyn to a fractured shoulder after he had bowled only 12.4 overs in the first innings.
That ballooned the workload of South Africa’s remaining fast bowlers, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander, and thrust a key role on Maharaj.
Happily for all of them they came through with flying colours.
Rabada and Philander claimed 12 of the 20 available wickets, and Maharaj finished with four.
“As much as Dale going down did affect us we didn’t let it bother us in the second innings,” Maharaj said on Wednesday.
“‘KG’ and ‘Vern’ put their hands up beautifully and we just focused on what we had to do.”
What did Maharaj have to do? What Paul Harris did for South Africa for most of his 37 tests – the dirty work.
Harris, also a left-arm spinner, was rarely tossed the ball with instructions to get people out.
Instead he was ordered to suffocate them into submitting at the other end of the pitch.
Maharaj knew that could be his lot in this series and he prepared accordingly.
“I did have a chat with ‘Harro’ before I got here and he had a few thoughts about bowling in Australian conditions,” Maharaj said.
“He said your job here is to rest the fast bowlers because conditions are in their favour rather than yours, and you will pick up a few wickets along the way.
“So try and stop the game from one end and let them strike.”
That Maharaj did like a seasoned test bowler.
He also batted like someone who had been there, done that in both innings, and especially for his 41 not out in the second innings.
It was the kind of debut fast bowler Joe Mennie would no doubt like to have if, as expected, he replaces the injured Peter Siddle in Australia’s team on Saturday.
“You don’t know how tough it’s going to be until you actually play,” Mennie said on Wednesday.
What would he try bring to the biggest game of his career so far?
“The stuff that has got me this far – nothing really changes.”
Except that it will. Forever. Just ask Maharaj.