Windies turn to spin against the Proteas

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

WHILE Chris Gayle wants the West Indies to be given pitches more suited to spin bowl­ing, their cur­rent strengths, his coun­ter­part Graeme Smith be­lieves South Africa have coped well against the home team’s two spin­ners.

The fi­nal Test of a se­ries which South Africa dom­i­nated ini­tially and which then went through a pa­thetic draw in St Kitts, starts at the Kens­ing­ton Oval to­day, with Gayle concerned that the pitch would suit South Africa’s strengths more, namely their fast bowl­ing pair, Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel.

“These con­di­tions are more suited to the South African at­tack. We have two ca­pa­ble spin­ners, maybe on pitches like in Guyana would have been bet­ter for us. These are the kinds of things we need to con­sider more se­ri­ously. We must try and get the home ad­van­tage to suit us more,” Gayle said yes­ter­day.

There’ll be a few lo­cals chok­ing on their Rice Krispies af­ter hear­ing that, and at a ground where the two ends are named af­ter two fast bowl­ing leg­ends – Joel Garner and Mal­colm Mar­shall – the irony couldn’t be more rich.

But Gayle is be­ing hon­est. His side’s best chance of squar­ing the se­ries rest on the per­for­mances of off-spin­ner Shane Shilling­ford and left-arm slow bowler Sulie­man Benn.

Be­tween them the pair have grabbed 18 of the 23 wick­ets that have fallen in the se­ries with Shilling­ford im­press­ing in his de­but se­ries claim­ing nine wick­ets.

“If they are go­ing to be bowl­ing a large amount of the overs then they are go­ing to be pick­ing up more wick­ets,” ex­plained the South African cap­tain. “The pitches have been slow. We’ve scored freely off them, we’ve ro­tated the strike. We’ve manipulated them well,” Smith said.

He had a hint of praise for Shilling­ford, who has trou­bled Hashim Amla. “He is a dif­fer­ent style of off-spin­ner. We’ve adapted well but he doesn’t bowl too many bad balls.” South Africa’s front line spin­ner Paul Har­ris has bat­tled to get into the se­ries. He got through a large amount of work in St Kitts, but with Steyn and Morkel grab­bing all the wick­ets and the lime­light he’s been left play­ing a de­fen­sive role.

“Harry’s Harry, he’s a spe­cial man in a spe­cial body, he was a bit dis­ap­pointed with cer­tain as­pects of his game es­pe­cially in the early parts of that match, but he came right, hope­fully he goes from strength to strength.”

One of his great strengths is util­is­ing bounce in the pitch and if that is the case, as many lo­cals seem to be­lieve then per­haps South Africa’s spin­ner will play a big­ger role in the out­come of this Test than was the case in the pre­vi­ous two.

Nev­er­the­less the plat­form will be set by Steyn and Morkel. Gayle recog­nised that nul­li­fy­ing those two would be vi­tal if his side are to emerge with an un­likely win.

“They are an ex­pe­ri­enced team and it is dif­fi­cult to pin­point one area where we can at­tack them. It is im­por­tant to block out their two key bowlers; Steyn and Morkel, if we can do that, then maybe we can at­tack the oth­ers.”

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