SRI LANKA TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA, 2019
Cricbuzz Staff •
Keshav Maharaj missed each of the three Tests against Pakistan. © Getty
Faf du Plessis hinted at the possible inclusion of Keshav Maharaj for the first Test against Sri Lanka in Durban. The left-arm spinner was benched for all three Tests against Pakistan as South Africa tormented the visitors with pace. With Kingsmead expected to serve another slow surface, South Africa will look to have the option of Maharaj instead of going with an all-pace combination.
“If you look at a general Durban or Kingsmead wicket, it allows for a spinner. In a perfect world, when you’re playing against a subcontinent team, with the firepower we have in our seam attack, you’d like to have the option of possibly going in with four seamers, but the history tells me that you would need to go in with a spinner here,” the South Africa captain said on the eve of the Test.
“Our thinking is moving towards a team that has not only the option of either four-seamers or a spinner. We would like to have both options, and that only really comes into play when you have an allrounder at No. 7. That’s our thinking moving forward, though whether it will happen tomorrow (Wednesday) I’m not sure yet.
“Obviously you want to try and expose them with your pace, so that’s been harsh on Kesh because he’s done nothing wrong. He’s actually bowling really well. We always try to have him in the starting XI because he’s a world-class spinner. The thinking is for the Test team to move towards having both your three best seamers whoever they will be at that time on form, and then also your spinner. That’s the plan for the Test team, but whether that will happen tomorrow, that still needs to be decided.”
Du Plessis acknowledged he expects the track to be slow with little to no movement off the surface. “They’ve been struggling with pace the last season and a half. I mean you saw the one dayer, it was really slow when we played here. So they prepared another pitch with a little more grass on it, hoping that it would have a little more pace. We hope that’s the case, but the general last season and a half tells me that it’s not going to have a lot of pace. So, expecting a little bit of movement, but it will be slow.”
Sri Lanka come into the series after a humiliating series loss in Australia – suffering an innings defeat in the first Test and then a 366-run loss in Canberra. Sri Lanka have since lost their captain to bad form and are carrying a signficantly inexperienced bowling group to South Africa, something the hosts plan on exploiting.
“If you’re playing a team with a lot of pace in their armoury, then going in a batter light would be a high risk because your tail will struggle to hang around when there’s pace around,” du Plessis said. “Because there’s not massive pace in the Sri Lankan team, it is something you can speak about. I don’t think we’ll consider a five-bowler attack against someone that has got express pace, but we are considering that option because there are a lot of medium pacers playing in their team, and obviously losing their spearhead in the spin department in Rangana Herath, there’s a lot of experience missing there.
“They’ve been having a tough time in Australia, and there’s been a lot of things happening away from their team, so I suppose it’s not ideal for them. But I’ll always respect opposition that we play against, whether it’s a Sri Lankan team that’s lost, or whether we’re playing Ireland or Afghanistan. Our preparation doesn’t change.”
While Sri Lanka walk into the Test with an avalanche of issues bothering them, South Africa have a happy headache of finding the right balance. Duanne Oliver’s performance against Pakistan has added to the pressure on Dale Steyn but the South Africa captain isn’t fretting over the tough choices he’ll have to make.
“If it was a normal case in point, you’d say there’s no comparison, Dale Steyn is Dale Steyn. But now Duanne has bowled so well you have to look at what’s best for your team at the moment, And if you can’t make a decision, if you feel like both of them are going to add so much value to your team, the other side of the coin is leaving an allrounder or a batter out,” du Plessis pointed out.
“It’s good for us to have options. It’s the same thing with the one-day team. I feel like the last while there’s been a lot more options in selecting both the Test and ODI teams. It’s good. It keeps everyone on their toes. Dale is Dale Steyn, he’s an amazing bowler. But also now you’ve got Duanne bowling really well and taking 25 wickets, and that makes selection a lot harder.”