DURBAN - Keshav Maharaj is in the process of writing himself into Lancashire cricketing folklore, and he hasn’t even been playing for the county giants for a month.
The Great Escape is on, with the Proteas left-arm spinner centrally involved in a relegation scrap with his current employers. Lancashire saw fit to request his services for the last four games of the season, and with good reason. You know what you get with Maharaj, as he toils away on the same, awkward length.
There were some raised eyebrows around the Manchester-based franchise, as they do have young, home-grown spinners at their disposal. But Maharaj has already vindicated that decision, with a startling return for Lancashire last week.
Playing at Taunton, against Somerset, Lancashire were staring down the barrel of a devastating defeat, defending just 77. A loss would have seen Lancashire’s hopes hanging by a thread, but Maharaj bowled unchanged in the second innings, to record startling figures of 7 for 37.
He took the final wicket to fall, as Somerset pressed the suicide button on a wicket that has been heavily scrutinised in the days since. That, of course, is not Maharaj’s or Lancashire’s problem. They garnered 11 priceless points from the tied match, and live to fight another day. Maharaj was signed because of his ability to hit a consistent area, and that is precisely what he did.
“I am just trying to do my best out here, and it is great to have this new experience,” he said of his short stint in the north-west. “It is obviously a tense time, but we are doing everything we can to stay up this season.If I can help in any way to achieve that, then I would have done my job,” he said with typical understatement.
The Dolphins product has a familiar face behind the stumps in Dane Vilas, the keeper/batsman who has turned out with distinction for the county. His input, from the best view in the house, played its hand in the county plucking Maharaj for this final test of a trying season.
Maharaj’s current assignment is against Lancashire’s traditional foes, Yorkshire. It is the time-honoured ‘Roses match’ of the north; the red roses from Lancashire, against the white roses from Yorkshire. They are the emblems on the respective team shirts, and the rivalry goes back to the 15th century.
Lancashire’s task this week is simple. If they can steal a win at Headingley, they will still be playing in the top division of county cricket next year. By all accounts, it is a massive match, and Yorkshire will most certainly not roll over and play dead.
Regardless of the result, Maharaj’s stock internationally continues to rise, and it will be no surprise if he pens a longer deal for future county campaigns - if the international window allows for it.