TELFORD VICE in Wellington
DANE Piedt took a last look at his phone before disconnecting it for the long flight from Cape Town to Wellington at the weekend. What he learned might have made lesser hearts sink.
“I saw JP had taken four wickets (in New Zealand’s first innings of the second test in Wellington), and I told myself even if I don’t play I’m getting recognised again,” Piedt said on Monday.
“That’s the most important thing.”
It is for a player who has had to harden the hell up during the past two years.
“I’ve had quite an up and down test career,” Piedt said with admirable understatement of his seven tests, which started with the bang of him taking 12/152 against Zimbabwe in Harare.
“I made my debut in (August) 2014, had a freak shoulder injury (in September 2014) and came back from that.
“So there’s been a lot of frustration and thinking will I ever play for South Africa again.
“I’ve had the opportunity to carry drinks in India (during South Africa’s 2015 tour there), and I only played in Delhi.
“But just to be here again is a privilege.”
Part of Piedt’s journey in the game has involved being sent by the Cobras to the Titans on loan, and returning to Newlands to captain the first-class team.
“Being part of the environment is only going to help me when I go back the Cobras and try to blood the youngsters to also achieve their dream of playing for South Africa.”
Piedt was summoned for the third test at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Saturday, when the South Africans will discover if the pitch takes as much turn as it offered during the two one-day internationals played there earlier in the tour.
That he will play is by no means certain.
He is, like Duminy, an off-spinner, albeit a specialist.
But South Africa’s star bowler at the Basin Reserve was left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, whose haul of 8/87 included a career-best 6/40 in the second innings.
Maharaj’s name will be among the first Faf du Plessis puts on his team sheet in Hamilton.
“His changes of pace and the angles he bowls at are impressive,” Piedt said of Maharaj.
“He’s never really been a big spinner of the ball but his angles have been really impressive; the way he comes close to the stumps or goes wider on the crease.
“If you’re bowling consistently in the same sort of area you’re always going to be rewarded, like he has.”
Whether Piedt gets a game depends not only on whether South Africa deploy two spinners, but also on whether they think part-timer Duminy has more wickets in his golden arm.
Duminy has scored only 71 runs in four innings, one of them unfinished, in the series, but South Africa will think carefully about tinkering with the balance of a successful team.
That said, Duminy remains the prime candidate for the chop unless, say, Kagiso Rabada – who has played in 13 of South Africa’s 18 games this year – is given a break before he jets off to the Indian Premier League next month.
And that could depend on the Seddon Park surface, which is likely to be prepared on the slower half of the table.
“If you’re asking if we’ve ordered the pitch to turn, no we haven’t,” New Zealand selector Gavin Larsen said in response to a reporter’s question on Monday.
“The reality is that that’s the way it has been panning out in Hamilton and we’ve picked our team accordingly.”
But the fact that the green, grassy pitch at the Basin didn’t stop Maharaj from ripping through the Kiwis has caused them headaches.
“Maharaj, to his credit, bowled nicely with control and put the ball in the right areas,” Larsen said.
“But I don’t think (the pitch) was overly threatening, so to allow a spinner like him to take 6/40 is unacceptable.
“When you come to a deck that might turn a little bit more, you might argue it’s going to present even more challenges but that’s now the challenge for (coach) Mike (Hesson) and (captain) Kane (Williamson) and the group to work through this week.”
Another challenge looms for New Zealand in the shape of South Africa’s batsmen.
“We’ve got players in our middle order who play spin pretty well, so we’ve got that covered, and we’ve grown up facing seam bowling,” Piedt said. “So we can attack both forms of bowling.”
Piedt, who has scored four half-centuries at first-class level with a best effort of 92, is not the worst with the bat.
Might he be good enough to slot in down the order if Duminy, South Africa’s No. 4, is dropped and everyone from No. 5 Du Plessis moves up a place?
Hold the phone …