SA's left-arm laaitjies look to Herath for inspiration

Keshav Maharaj of South Africa during day 5 of the 1st Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Bangladesh at Senwes Park on October 02, 2017 in Potchefstroom.
Keshav Maharaj of South Africa during day 5 of the 1st Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Bangladesh at Senwes Park on October 02, 2017 in Potchefstroom.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

South Africa have said‚ more than once‚ that despite the prevailing conditions in Sri Lanka they are depending on their fast bowlers to get the job done in Sri Lanka.

Well they might: it’s been that way since Brett Schultz took 20 wickets there in August and September 1993.

But that was before South Africa were hammered by 278 runs inside three days in the first Test in Galle — a result that had a less to do with their bowling than inept batting in dismal innings of 126 and 73.

With the last match of the series starting in Colombo on Friday‚ South Africa will take their redemption anywhere they can find it. Like from their spinners.

The visitors’ left-arm laaitjies‚ the orthodox Keshav Maharaj and wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi‚ accounted for eight of the 20 Lankan wickets that fell in Galle.

Thing is‚ only three of South Africa’s 20 scalps went to the home side’s pace attack — which was limited to Suranga Lakmal‚ who bowled last in the first innings and wasn’t required in the second dig.

The Lankans’ other bowlers were left-armer Rangana Herath‚ off-spinner Dilruwan Perera and left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan.

Maharaj struggled to find his range in the first innings‚ not least because he was recovering from illness‚ but bounced back well to take 4/58 the second time around.

Shamsi‚ who took 3/91 and 1/37‚ seemed in danger of missing the second Test when he returned home after the Galle game to attend to a family matter.

But team management said on Wednesday he was back in the fold and available for selection.

“Wherever you play in the world you want to be consistent in your lengths and cause the batter to be uncomfortable when you’re bowling at him‚” Maharaj told reporters in Colombo on Wednesday.

“That’s something I had to pick up after the first innings. Obviously I didn’t have rhythm‚ but then I found it in the second innings and I put the ball in much better areas.

“On these wickets‚ as long as you’re putting the ball in the right area with energy on the ball‚ what happens on the wicket you have no control over.

“We don’t know when the ball is going to spin excessively or not.

“You’ve basically got to put the right ingredients into the wicket and whatever happens from there is in God’s hands.”

For the best example of how to do that Maharaj had to look no further than Herath‚ who has nine 10-wicket hauls among his career haul of 423 and owns four of the top 10 performances in Sri Lanka’s history; one fewer than Muttiah Muralitharan.

“His consistency in phenomenal‚” Maharaj said. “Left-arm spinners are known to control the game but he does something special: he turns the ball at will and slides the ball on at will.

“It’s something that I’d love to learn in my trade and get some knowledge from him.

“I did speak to him in South Africa [last season] and he did give me some insight‚ but I’d like to pick his brain more about playing in subcontinent conditions because he’s the best in the world at what he does.”

There is only one Herath‚ but a performance by Maharaj or Shamsi in Colombo that is anything like those he puts in more often than not his would be worth anything even the best fast bowlers could do.

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