SA spinners 'inadequate'

Imran Tahir (Gallo)
Imran Tahir (Gallo)
Cape Town – Are the Proteas’ supposed frontline spinners being eclipsed even by Sri Lanka’s part-timers in the early part of the five-match one-day international series?

That is a certainly a claim being put forward in the host nation following a second successive triumph for the Lankans to go 2-0 up in Colombo on Tuesday.

In an article on www.espncricinfo.com, the cricket-specialist website’s Sri Lankan correspondent Andrew Fernando wrote on Wednesday that even a collective improvement in the South African attack – the rain-affected match was really frittered away by the misfiring main batsmen – wasn’t enough to hide weaknesses in the Proteas’ spin arsenal, in particular.

“Robin Peterson and Aaron Phangiso bowled their full quota of overs on Tuesday, and took one wicket apiece.

“On this surface (at the R Premadasa Stadium) this might not have seemed a poor return, but in South Africa’s innings their inadequacy was laid bare.

“Tillakaratne Dilshan, who is better than a part-timer perhaps but still no ace with the ball, out-bowled South Africa’s frontline spinners and extracted more turn than either.

“His modes of attack were more creative – flighting several outside off before darting a couple on the toes to finish the over. The visiting slow bowlers persevered on a humdrum line, without major variations to flight or pace, and reaped results that fit their bland exertion.”

Fernando said that part of the Proteas’ problem is that “their opponents are too adept at defusing left-arm spin – Sri Lankan batsmen are weaned on the stuff”.

“There are also five left-handed batsmen in Sri Lanka’s top eight, who will not be daunted by the ball turning into them, particularly as neither (Peterson or Phangiso) possesses a delivery that spins the other way.”

He pointed to early-series statistics showing that the Lankans’ own left-arm spinner Rangana Herath has more wickets from 12.5 overs than all three of South Africa’s spinners combined, in 44.

Fernando noted that leg-spinner Imran Tahir had long been “discarded” from the Proteas’ ODI mix.

Yet raising of Tahir’s name is far from unjustified: while many people may be prepared to think only of his disastrous last Test appearance at Adelaide in November 2012, when he returned an infamous 0/260, perhaps they forget his ODI performances thus far.

The Pakistan-born journeyman has played five games for the Proteas in the format, and all came in Subcontinental conditions at the 2011 World Cup – he claimed 14 scalps at a stellar average of 10.71 and his economy rate stands at an equally decent 3.79 runs to the over.

Yet whatever the debate around Tahir’s possible suitability to the ODI mix, the brains trust, in fairness, may not be blamed if they think the available spin brew is one of the lesser of their worries right now in a broadly stuttering side.

Phangiso has at least been a calm-headed “trier” and not yet been too genuinely thumped around by the Lankan strokeplayers, whilst Peterson, wisely given a couple of overs upfront on Tuesday (something he seems to relish in such conditions) travelled for fewer than four runs to the over in a completed spell.

Between the pair, they also winkled out Sri Lanka’s two most stellar batsmen, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, relatively cheaply, which appeared to put the South Africans right in the game for a while ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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