DURBAN – Keshav Maharaj is ready for Australia, and the Dolphins spinner got ready for the tourists the only way he knows how; by bowling, and bowling, and bowling some more.
“I think I have bowled around 100 overs in the last two matches for the Dolphins, so it has been really good to get some overs under the belt,” the stand-in Dolphins skipper said after their victory against the Warriors at St George’s Park.
In his last two Sunfoil Series matches, the left-arm spinner has in fact bowled 56 overs against the Warriors this past weekend, and 41.4 overs against the Knights. In contrast, he bowled just 36 overs across four Indian innings in the Test series, and was left out of the side for the third and final Test, at a lively Wanderers.
Back in the domestic scene, it wasn’t just a case of holding up an end, as he took 5/128 in that marathon spell in Bloemfontein, and in the second innings in Port Elizabeth picked up career-best figures of 7/76 in 34 overs.
“It was good to get a proper bowl, because I didn’t get too much of a chance in the Test series against India,” he said. “A few people wondered why we won the toss and chose to bat first in PE, but we could see the nature of the wicket, and we backed ourselves to come through in the end,” Maharaj said of the 55-run victory.
That win was a first this season for the men from Durban, at the seventh time of asking.
They have had to scrap for draws for much of the season, but the win on the road at least gives them a mathematical glimmer of hope for the Sunfoil Series title.
“At the moment, we are more concerned about getting our basics right, and taking it a game at a time. We are not too worried about the trophy at this stage,” Maharaj, pictured, explained. “We are just working on getting the small things right.”
The Dolphins will have to continue that pursuit without him, as he links up with the national Test squad next week, ahead of a massive series against Australia. Maharaj made his Test debut against the visitors, and is looking forward to another engaging battle.
“I am definitely looking forward to that one, and the fact that the first one is at Kingsmead makes it even more special,” Maharaj revealed.
“It has always been my dream to play a Test match in front of my home crowd, and I hope to do well for the team, and put on a good performance in front of a lot of friends and family,” he said cheerfully.
Maharaj expects to do a lot more work in this series, given the coastal slant of the venues for the four-Test tussle.
Raw pace and bounce may well take a back seat to reverse-swing and spin from Maharaj and his counterpart, Nathan Lyon, and he is encouraged by his return in Port Elizabeth, which hosts the second Test.
“It’s nice to put in a performance at a place that you will return to - but I doubt that we will get the same type of wicket for the Test,” he said of the turning strip that greeted the Dolphins last Thursday.
Having toiled as much as he did over the past fortnight, the left-arm spinner will now take a few days off to recuperate, before national duty resumes next week.
The Proteas might not have had much use for him against the Indians, but they will most certainly need him at his best against the fast-scoring Australians.