TELFORD VICE at University Oval
CAN bat, can bowl, can field – and now South Africans know Keshav Maharaj can also keep his head.
The left-arm spinner claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in his fifth test on Friday to help South Africa stay in the running after three days of the first test against New Zealand.
With Kane Williamson batting like a dream for his 16th test century, which grew to 130 before he was dismissed, and the home side’s middle order and tail swinging from the heels, Maharaj showed coolness under pressure to take 5/94.
He helped dismiss New Zealand for 341 in reply to South Africa’s 308, and when bad light forced the close the visitors were 38/1 in their second innings – a lead of five runs.
Maharaj gave Claude Henderson, South Africa’s spin bowling consultant, some of the credit for his success.
“I spoke to ‘Hendo’ (on Thursday), and we addressed a small technical thing and also made a change of mindset,” Maharaj said.
A damp pitch, which sported brown and green grass at the start of the match, hardened into a sound batting surface, wasn’t on Maharaj’s side.
“It’s extremely tough (to bowl on it) with no pace on the ball,” he said.
“I have a slower trajectory through the air, and that makes it a bit more difficult.
“When the new ball came along, it just skidded. It wasn’t really turning much.”
Despite those challenges – and the chance of the match being affected by rain at the weekend – New Zealand’s BJ Watling knew the contest was far from dead.
“One crazy session could change it,” Watling, who scored 50, said.
There was something like craziness to be seen on Friday, when the ground was evacuated and a fire engine arrived after an alarm sounded in the main stand.
Play resumed after 20 minutes, but by then most of the 3 296 spectators had abandoned play for the day.
“When the boys went back on there wasn’t much of a crowd left,” Maharaj said, adding that he had experienced a similar situation when a fire alarm interrupted an A team match between Australia and South Africa in Townsville in August.
“It was definitely something different,” Watling said.
“The biggest shame was that the crowd left and it had been quite a good atmosphere.”