CAPE TOWN – It was a blunder by the Proteas brainstrust to go in with just one specialist spinner in the second Sri Lankan Test, but Keshav Maharaj more than made up for it by taking a remarkable eight wickets on Friday.
The left-arm offie produced the excellent figures of 32-6-116-8 to bring the South Africans right back into the game after they failed to take a wicket in the opening session.
Maharaj recorded his career-best Test figures in an innings, and it is also the third-best figures by a South African bowler since unity.
But he can go past Lance Klusener (8/64 against India in Kolkata in 1996) and Allan Donald (8/71 against Zimbabwe in Harare in 1995) if he takes the final Sri Lankan wicket on Saturday.
His 8/116 is the best analysis by a South African against Sri Lanka, beating Marchant de Lange’s 7/81.
Sri Lanka ended day one of the second Test on 277/9 off 86 overs at stumps, having won the first match in Galle.
“Really, really chuffed. I think it’s nice to get overs under your belt. I didn’t expect so many overs on the sub-continent!” Maharaj said in the post-play TV interview.
“But really happy with the way things go, and obviously happy with the day and how the boys went about their business here today.”
Asked if he could get a ninth wicket on Saturday, Maharaj said: “I haven’t thought that far yet! Right now, I just want to have a nice, massive meal! And get some feet up.
“But ja, I would love to take the first ball tomorrow morning, and who knows what happens from there.”
Maharaj, who didn’t want to comment on why a second spinner wasn’t chosen, said that the pitch at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo offered more to the bowlers than the Galle International Stadium wicket.
“I don’t want to get involved in team selection. I’m just here to bowl overs and luckily I managed to bowl mine (today),” he said.
“I think it’s a little bit quicker here in Colombo. Galle was a lot slower, and I just felt like there was a bit of something there in terms of a bit of bounce. We saw there with the short ball being utilised.
“As much as you can tell yourself that you are not tired, the body does get sore. Obviously Faf saw I was tiring a bit and gave me a few overs’ break, and I came back. I did ask for the ball afterwards!
Man of the moment 😍😍😍 Congratulations @keshavmaharaj16 8/116. The best figures by any touring spinner and the best figures by a South African spinner since readmission #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/ZmXfsyHZfx
“Unfortunate that we lost the toss, but we didn’t manage to control the rate. Hopefully we can get the wicket early tomorrow.”