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Monday, December 11, 2023

Keshav Maharaj hopes Proteas can stick with revved-up spin twins

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Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi roared out of SuperSport Park in Centurion after Proteas training yesterday in a bright red sports car.

The sound of the high-revving internal combustion engine reverberated throughout the empty stadium.

Not quite what you would expect from two bowlers whose craft relies on skill and guile, rather than muscle power and speed.

Both were excellent in the Proteas’ victory over Australia in the third one-day international in Potchefstroom on Tuesday, when they once again showcased their potential value at the upcoming 50-over ICC Cup in India.

“We have done well as a unit when two spinners have played in the past. The last wicket presented some turn, and we utilised that with the spin,” Maharaj said yesterday ahead of the fourth ODI today (1pm start).

The pair tied the much-vaunted Australian batting unit in knots at JB Marks Oval, but the chances of them continuing their good work in another must-win encounter for the Proteas in Centurion is unlikely.

The hosts have only fielded a twin-spin contingent three times in the last 10 ODIs at the venue due to the ground’s reputation for not being spin-friendly. The square boundaries are among the smallest in South Africa, while mis-hits also travel further due to the altitude.

Maharaj was uncertain whether the dual spin combination would have another crack in tandem at the Australians.

“I think in general, the SuperSport wicket doesn’t really assist spinners too much,” he said.

“I haven’t looked at the wicket as yet, but I know the coaches are busy with that right now.

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“Fingers crossed we can go with the double spin, but we will have to assess conditions.”

Reuters reports that Maharaj had little hope of competing at the

Cup when he first came out of surgery in March after rupturing his Achilles tendon, but he is now heading to next month’s tournament with renewed confidence.

The 33-year-old suffered the injury while celebrating a wicket in a Test against the West Indies in Johannesburg, and had to be taken off the pitch on a stretcher.

“After I came out of surgery, I said I must I give myself every chance, but when you see how slow the initial phases of rehab are, you have negative thoughts,” Maharaj said.

“Three or four months after surgery, I wouldn’t have said I would have gotten here, but with my medical team, we plotted the journey and they gave me the best chance.”

Maharaj returned to the team for the ODI series against Australia, and has played in two of the three matches as both countries prepare for India.*

“I put my head down and sacrificed a lot, from a diet point of view, from a rehab point of view, from a recovery point of view, making sure I was getting eight to 10 hours of sleep every night,” the leftarm off-spinner said.

“I might not have got there, but it was about giving yourself the best chance to get back to a place where you feel you belong.

“My forefathers are from India, so I want to go back there and try to do something special for my country. That was the motivation that I needed.”

Proteas Squad

Temba Bavuma (captain), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Sisanda Magala, Keshav

Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi, Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen

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