TELFORD VICE at the Basin Reserve
THE pitch was green and the weather freezing cold, but South Africa’s spinners found a way to take the lion’s share of New Zealand wickets in the second test in Wellington.
South Africa romped to victory by eight wickets with two days to spare on Saturday – and between them Keshav Maharaj and JP Duminy took 12 of the home side’s 20 wickets.
The star was left-armer Maharaj, who claimed 6/40 in the second innings, the best figures by a South African slow bowler in a test innings since 2003 and the first time a Saffer spinner had taken six in an innings since 2009.
Maharaj has snapped up 13 wickets at an average of 13.92 in the two matches.
“Being a spinner of minimal variation I have to rely on consistency,” the modest Maharaj said.
“I was just trying to stay as consistent as possible to try and help the captain.”
Was that captain, Faf du Plessis, surprised by his spinners’ success given the supposedly seamer-friendly conditions?
“It was surprising given the conditions, which were cold and with not a lot of spin,” Du Plessis said.
“But I thought both spinners bowled incredibly well.
“Their control and consistency meant the New Zealand batsmen just couldn’t get away.
“Their runrates were very low, and the pressure that created created chances for wickets.
“When spinners are contributing like that it makes the seamers’ lives much easier, especially with us having to rotate the seamers quite often because we only have three.”
What had Maharaj added to South Africa’s attack in his six tests?
“Control,” Du Plessis said. “That sums it up – he doesn’t bowl a lot of bad balls and if you look at the best spinners – (Rangana) Herath, (Ravindra) Jadeja, (Nathan) Lyon, (Ravichandran) Ashwin, they don’t bowl a lot of bad balls.
“Keshav has brought that consistency.”
A strong southerly wind blew for most of the day and sent temperatures plummeting, prompting South Africa’s players – and even the umpires – to wrap up as warm as the regulations permitted and to resort to using hand-warmers.
“It was a challenge for us,” Du Plessis admitted.
“What we asked for this morning was real hard cricketers.
“Mentally we needed to be very strong, needed to be ready to be challenged and pushed to extremes because they’re not conditions we are used to.
“There were no excuses; the wind, the cold were never going to be excuses.
“We needed real, hard test cricket and that’s what the players produced.”
The third test starts in Hamilton next Saturday.