Did Proteas make the right call to leave out Keshav Maharaj at Newlands?
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CAPE TOWN – Your replacement bowler has just taken 11 wickets in a Test, so what do you do?
That was the dilemma facing Proteas coach Ottis Gibson, captain Faf du Plessis and the selection panel when they flew into Cape Town after the convincing victory over Pakistan in Centurion.
There was just no way they could drop Duanne Olivier, who produced the magical figures of 11/96 at SuperSport Park.
His mix of vicious bouncers and seam movement at pace was too hot to handle on the helpful surface up north.
But should he play at Newlands? Would he get the same assistance there?
Cancel that, he’s playing, announced Du Plessis on Wednesday.
So, that left it down to two spots between three men – Dale Steyn, Theunis de Bruyn and Keshav Maharaj.
Du Plessis explained at the toss on Thursday that the lack of overs required from Maharaj over the last few years at Newlands played a role in the decision to leave out the left-armer – who has taken just five wickets in the last three Cape Town Tests.
And the manner in which the Proteas ‘bombed out’ Pakistan for 177 in only 51.1 overs would suggest that the right call was made to go with the four-pronged pace attack of Steyn, Olivier, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander.
The healthy green tinge to the pitch would also have influenced the decision.
But I’m not so sure. Yes, it was electrifying at times watching the South Africans dish out some ‘chin music’ to the struggling Pakistanis, who seldom face such hostile bowling on bouncy tracks, as they play all their home cricket in the UAE.
The weather in Cape Town, though, is set fair for the next few days, which should dry out the grass and make it brown.
Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah already got a few to turn considerably in his three overs so far in the SA first innings of 123/2 off 30 overs, so it will be interesting to see how he goes on day two.
Du Plessis and Gibson will bank on their batsmen generating a big lead, and then blasting the Pakistani line-up cheaply a second time around.
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 3, 2019
But if the visitors can get among the wickets early on Friday and show more application with the bat, the Proteas may miss Maharaj to provide the variety with his slow left-arm.
He has become an integral part of the Proteas Test team, and would also have allowed Du Plessis to utilise his quick men in shorter bursts.
Maybe then going in with one less batsman in De Bruyn would’ve been the better call.