In the latest development, South African skipper Faf du Plessis maintained that playing in subcontinental conditions is always a huge challenge for touring teams.
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Moreover, on fewer of the occasions touring teams have succeeded in subcontinental conditions, and that time around their pace bowling brigade has risen to the occasion.
Australia defeated India way back in 2004 on the back of their solid bowling performance from the fast bowlers. Even four years ago, South Africa defeated a much stronger Sri Lankan side. It was similar conditions but the Proteas pacers were quite brilliant which handed a series victory to the national team.
Speedster Mitchell Starc was the wrecker-in-chief for Australia when they toured the Island nation in 2016. However, his tally of 24 wickets wasn’t enough as Australia succumbed to a 3-0 series defeat.
Now, coming back to the second Test against South Africa, it was a surprise to see that South Africa fielding a solitary spinner. Keshav Maharaj was the only spinner in the XI. Someone like left-arm spinner Tabraiz Shamsi was missed dearly.
It was pretty surprising to see South Africa play a lone spinner.
However, the management understood that they wanted to back their strength which was pace bowling. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, played the only pacer in the form of stand-in-skipper Suranga Lakmal. He bowled just a couple of overs throughout the match. It went on to prove that spin was the only way forward.
Faf du Plessis feels the pitch was abrasive:
However Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis said that the three frontline pacers were included looking at the surface. It was abrasive he felt. He felt that with the ball getting old the pacers could be able to generate some reverse swing.
However, it was pretty unfortunate for them as they never managed to stamp their authority in the game.
Throughout the match, only Keshav Maharaj bagged 12 out of the 15 wickets. It was brilliant bowling by the spinner, who bagged nine wickets in the first innings of the second Test in Colombo.
So much so, the absence of a second spinner was felt severely when Maharaj was doing the damage from the other end. He bowled tirelessly which was evident from his interview at the end of the opening day’s play. He bowled without a break for around 25 overs.
Du Plessis stated they needed to adapt to the conditions well rather than playing to their strengths.
“Our way of coming to the subcontinent needs to adapt,” he said after the 199-run loss in the second Test. “Whether it’s playing two or even three spinners when you come to conditions like this you give yourself the best opportunity,” du Plessis asserted.
Pacers didn’t do anything wrong:
The South African pacers didn’t do anything wrong. On trying conditions, they bent their back pretty well and bowled in the right areas.
However, due to the unresponsive pitch conditions, they never managed to bag wickets on consistent intervals. Hence, the wicket-taking support wasn’t quite there for Maharaj.
“I think it would be unfair to judge our seam bowlers on these performances. They tried hard, but it was just really tough to get something out of the wicket. The wicket was quite dusty. You saw with a lot of balls that when it hit there was a little bit of explosion. That takes out all the pace out of the delivery. The pace factor that we had as a threat was not a weapon in these conditions,” du Plessis. added.
Du Plessis further reiterated whenever teams like Australia, England and South Africa tours to the subcontinent they questions come to the mind ‘how to tackle the spin ploy’.
And it was the same this time around. Yet again South Africa failed to read which way the ball was turning and kept giving away their wickets on a consistent basis.
Problems of touring team in the subcontinent:
“Whenever a team tours the subcontinent – whether it’s Australia or England or us – there’s always a question mark on how you play spin. It’s a world issue that we’re trying to get better at,” he added.
“I don’t think we play spin badly, but if you compare yourself to the subcontinent batters, then they’re obviously a step above us in that regard,” he further added.
“It has to be a case of looking at how you can get your own home conditions to try and get exposed to these kinds of conditions a little more often when you’re playing first-class cricket. That’s where the challenge lies for the South Africas and the Englands and the Australias of the world,” du Plessis went on to say.
There is no doubt that the Proteas were outplayed in all three departments of the game.
But, du Plessis wasn’t too bothered about the host teams taking advantage of the home conditions. He further added that green tracks will be on offer for the Islanders when they tour South Africa next year.
“Teams these days make sure they can maximise their opportunity to win a game. For us, it will be similar to last time when they came over. We’ve got a really good seam attack so the pitches will have some pace and bounce,” he signed off.