DURBAN – Keshav Maharaj and David Warner were the designated players for media duty on day one of the first Test, and you couldn’t find two more different players or personalities if you tried.
One is a left-arm spinner, the other a hard-hitting opener. Relative newcomer, worldly veteran. Softly spoken, assertive chatterbox. Chalk and cheese.
And yet, their job description is the same.
Warner hit hundreds of balls the day before the Test, while Maharaj bowled just about as many. They are both fiercely proud Test players, desperate to gain the upper hand in a series that may well be decided by small margins. The manner in which they go about that job is night and day, of course
“I actually like to go under the radar,” Maharaj offered. “I just try to keep it simple. I don’t have many variations, so I just rely on my consistency to try and outsmart the batsmen,” he said of a game-plan that has already brought control to the Proteas – and no shortage of penetration in the coal-face overs.
“I felt like he controlled it well from one end, especially when it was going reverse. I felt he held up one end very well, and they slowed down our scoring with the fast bowlers at the other end. Bowling is all about partnerships,” Warner noted of Maharaj’s efforts.”
The spinner’s rewards on day one were the best batsman in the world, as well as the left-handed glue in the middle-order, both the result of patience from the left-armer playing on his home ground for the first time in a Test.
Warner, meanwhile, takes a more confrontational approach to matters in the middle. Which is why his duel with Vernon Philander before lunch made for compelling Test-match viewing.
“I tried to bring the keeper up…it is more about trying to put him off his lengths,” Warner said, paying homage to Philander’s meticulous control of line and length.
“The ball was reversing, so I tried to take the LBW out of the equation. I was making sure the front pad was outside the leg-stump line. At the end of the day, he is a skilful bowler, and he worked me out,” Warner continued, giving a bird’s eye perspective of confronting South Africa’s seaming practitioner from 22 yards.
“The difference is that he knows (with the keeper up) that I am back in my crease. At the end of the day, it’s good bowling,” Warner said of his dismissal on 56.
“My job was to try and get the keeper up, and I did that. I negated half a dozen balls that he bowled into me, but then he bowled me a good ball and I nicked off,” he lamented.
There was no dwelling on it, though, because Warner has seen it all before. Warner shrugged off his dismissal, complementing the skill of the bowler, and resolving to do better next time.
“That’s the game, that’s the way it is. The sun comes up again tomorrow, and we keep getting on.”