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Proteas bowlers improving ahead of fourth ODI against Australia, Maharaj insists

Keshav Maharaj addresses a meeting of Proteas bowlers at SuperSport Park on Thursday.
Keshav Maharaj addresses a meeting of Proteas bowlers at SuperSport Park on Thursday.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Keshav Maharaj may be limping, but he has demonstrated why Proteas selectors were willing to give him as much time as possible to prove his fitness after he ruptured his Achilles in March.

Maharaj wore longer than normal socks to cover scars from the surgery that reconnected the tendon, but that fashion choice, with the limp, are minor sacrifices for him to fulfil a World Cup dream. 

And if anyone was in doubt about why he is so important to the Proteas' chances in India, Tuesday’s performance in the third ODI against Australia provided the evidence.

Maharaj, with fellow spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, bowled a match-changing spell which helped keep alive the Proteas' chances in the series and gave a timely boost to the team’s flagging confidence. 

He bowled a full 10 overs, finishing with 2/37, that included two maidens.

On top of that, his run-out of David Warner, in which he moved quickly to his left, was the catalyst for Australia’s collapse.

Having endured a six-month rehabilitation period, which tested his and his family’s patience, the latest challenge for Maharaj is recovery from one match to the next.

“The recovery is going as well as can be after each game. The main thing is I can execute my skills, which is pleasing. I will always have a limp, but the medical staff have been phenomenal.

“Four months ago I was still in a moon boot, but I’ve put in hard work behind closed doors with regards to my skill. I’m trying to bowl my best ball all the time. The real test will come when I play on wickets that don’t offer much assistance. Then I will be able to see if I am close to my best or not.”

We are showing signs of growth, but performance is the defining criteria and hopefully we see the rewards of that going forward
Maharaj

Maharaj’s return is one part of a bigger journey for the Proteas’ bowling unit, which, until their two front-line spinners intervened on Tuesday, was struggling horribly against Australia’s aggressive batting. 

“We've acknowledged where we can be better as a unit and it's not just the seamers. It’s about the lines and executions.

“It was better in the last game, although conceding 100 runs in the first 10 overs probably doesn’t indicate that,” said Maharaj.

“But if you look at it from an analysis point of view, things like the groupings of deliveries, it is getting better. Hopefully that is building up towards peaking at the right time for the World Cup.”

Having lost five out of six matches against Australia across the two series so far, Maharaj said scepticism about South Africa's progress was understandable.

“If we can take care of our process, then the performance will take care of itself,” said the player. 

“We are showing signs of growth, but performance is the defining criteria and hopefully we see the rewards of that going forward.”

Australia will be determined to show that Tuesday’s collapse with the bat in Potchefstroom, when they lost their last nine wickets for 87 runs, was a minor blip on what has otherwise been an extremely successful tour for them. Missing four starters, including skipper Pat Cummins, before the series, they also had all-rounder Cameron Green suffer a concussion in the first match.

It sets up Friday’s fourth encounter at SuperSport Park in Centurion beautifully. The T20s and ODIs have lacked a close finish, and with so much for the tourists to prove and the series still on the line for the hosts, it's poised to be a thriller. 


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