JOHANNESBURG – South Africa went all-in with spin in the last One-Day International against Sri Lanka, successfully adopting a strategy that in the long term – given where the next World Cup will be played – could serve them well.
Keshav Maharaj opened with spin, bowled spin through the middle, and spin at the end, taking advantage of a dry surface. It won’t be an easy chase for the South Africans as they go in search of a third consecutive ODI series win in Sri Lanka, and importantly the 10 points needed for the ICC World Cup Super League.
Forty out of the 50 overs were bowled by spinners, including Aiden Markram’s part-time off-breaks. It was good recognition on the part of stand-in skipper Maharaj, who had opened the bowling and in his first over ripped two deliveries passed Avishka Fernando’s outside edge, disturbing the top of the surface on both occasions.
It was the same strip as the one used for the opening encounter of the series last Thursday, and the deterioration was noticeable.
And while the use of spin to the degree it was utilised on Tuesday may seem foreign to South Africans, for Maharaj, he is very much in his comfort zone. It has been the ploy successfully implemented by Maharaj’s franchise the Dolphins – whom he has captained regularly – at Kingsmead, which has become something of a spin mecca in recent seasons.
By the time the first Power Play was completed, Maharaj had gotten through seven overs of spin, himself picking up the wicket of Fernando in the fourth over, while George Linde claimed the scalp of the returning Dinesh Chandimal – both batsmen trapped lbw.
Maharaj’s plan to go with spin was also helped in part by a poor out for Kagiso Rabada. The spearhead of the Proteas attack, had strained an ankle in the field during the second match last Saturday, and had to undergo a fitness test before the start of play, to determine his readiness. How much that ankle was an issue only Rabada will know, but having said he was fit to start, he really should have performed much better. Three no balls, six wides tell the tale of a fast bowler, whose rhythm was completely out of sync.
Sri Lanka’s batsman had to scratch around for runs, and there was little in the shape of substantive partnerships as Maharaj smartly rotated his four spin options.
South Africa’s fielding backed up the bowling well, although if there was one criticism of Maharaj it was that he could have applied more pressure by having an extra fielder in the circle for longer.
In one instance, some miss-communication, between the bowler Linde, the skipper and the fielders cost South Africa a wicket - and five runs - when an alert Charith Asalanka deliberately slogged swept the ball to mid-wicket where he was caught, but he knew he could take the risk because South Africa had too many fielders outside of the circle and thus it was declared a ‘no ball.’ .
Asalanka, a young left hand batsmen, playing in just his eight ODI, once again produced a very streetwise innings, underlining why many in Sri Lanka feel he’s a future captain. Having made half centuries in the previous two matches, he backed that up with a workmanlike 47 on Thursday, hitting just two boundaries, but working the ball excellently into space.
The three frontline spinners were very good, Maharaj the most successful, claiming 3/38, while Linde picked up 2/32 and Tabraiz Shamsi finished with 2/31. Markram, impressed after conceding 16 runs in an initial two over spell in the first Power Play and returned to claim the wicket wicket of Dhananjaya de Silva – thanks to an outstanding catch by wicket wicketkeeper, Heinrich Klaasen, who had to move around the batsmen from behind the stumps, and dive full length, to secure the ball in his right glove – while conceding 25 runs in his next eight overs.
Sri Lanka 203/9 (Charith Asalanka 47, Dhananjaya de Silva 31, Keshav Maharaj 3/38, Tabraiz Shamsi 2/31