Proteas sweating over spin duo's fitness ahead of crucial 2nd Pakistan Test

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Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj
Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj
  • The Proteas are sweating over the fitness of their two gun spinners - Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi - on the eve of the must-win second Test on Thursday.
  • Maharaj felt pain in his rib during practice this week and will be assessed again Thursday morning.
  • The Proteas trail Pakistan 1-0 in the two-match Test series.

The Proteas are sweating over the fitness of their two gun spinners - Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi - on the eve of the must-win second Test against Pakistan that starts in Rawalpindi on Thursday.

Head coach Mark Boucher expressed concern over the pair's possible availability, after Maharaj felt pain in his rib during practice this week.

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"Kesh is a concern because he flared up at practice yesterday (Tuesday)," said Boucher.

"During a session, he turned around and felt some sort of pain in his rib area.

"He went to the doctor and complained that he was a little sore. He then went for scans, which showed there was something there.

"It might be a minor little tear or a bruising of some sort.

"But he bowled quite a few overs today (Wednesday), about 15 overs just to really test himself, and he felt fine. He said the pain was bearable.

"So, we’ll wait and see how he recovers from the bowling he had."

Shamsi was a last-second omission from the first of two Tests in Karachi, which SA lost by seven wickets, after feeling excruciating back pain moments before the toss.

The left-arm Chinaman was replaced by all-rounder George Linde.

"It was a very big blow [to lose Shamsi]," said Boucher.

"You name a team and 20 minutes before the toss, you’re busy scrambling.

"It was a bubble burst for us right before the game. I’m not making excuses though.

"I certainly would have loved to see how Shamsi would have bowled on that wicket.

"We saw how good their leg spinner (Yasir Shah) was. A wrist spinner was always going to turn the ball more than what finger spinners were.

"Who knows what he would have done on it."

Another inexperienced all-rounder Wiaan Mulder could be in with a shout if Maharaj does not give the all-clear come Thursday morning ahead of the toss.

Mulder was fantastic in only his second and third Tests against Sri Lanka in South Africa, which the Proteas won convincingly 2-0.

"We are not ready to make a call on Maharaj yet because you never know how his body will react overnight," Boucher added.

"He needs to give us an early call on how he feels. It's one of those things where, as a player, you’re the only one who really knows if the pain is bearable to bowl through.

"I'm going to have to trust Kesh on this. If he wakes up in the morning and he’s fine to play, then he’ll get the nod.

"Wiaan Mulder is certainly in the plans.

"The wicket has a lot of cracks and puzzle pieces to it. It might be up and down.

"A guy who is able to hit good areas for long periods of time is always going to be difficult to play, so he’s certainly in the running, especially with the way we batted in the first Test.

"He will add a different sort of look to the side as well, with the extra all-rounder position."

Boucher said they were desperate to have both spinners fit, as he saw a dried-out pitch in Rawalpindi this week that had its grass shaved off.

"Going into this game, Shamsi might be effective on this particular wicket," he said.

"My concern is, if he does bowl quite a few overs and wakes up the next morning and his back is sore again, and he’s not able to push through, then you’re stuck with one bowler light.

"It’s a massive red flag for me, especially because of the sort of pain he had with his back.

"We have to take that into consideration regarding selection."

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