SA all in a spin over how to han­dle In­dia’s dy­na­mite bowl­ing duo

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

JOHANNESBURG: “What is this, the 90s?” a whole lot of peo­ple have asked as South Africa’s One-Day se­ries with In­dia has un­folded.

It is one thing to be dom­i­nated by In­dian spin­ners in In­dia, quite an­other to be dom­i­nated by them at home. But that’s what has taken place in the first half of the six match se­ries be­tween the two teams, mak­ing many won­der if they’d gone back in a time 25 years. Back then the mer­est hint of a spin­ner even warm­ing up would make South African bats­men buckle at the knees. Jonty Rhodes’ sweep­ing seemed just about the only way to halt the ca­pit­u­la­tion. Nev­er­mind Warne and Mu­ralitha­ran, South Africa made a bunch of pretty medi­ocre spin­ners look re­ally good – any­one re­mem­ber Su­nil Joshi? He claimed 5/6 against South Africa in Nairobi in 1999.

But to be fair to South Africa’s bats­men, they have im­proved a great deal since. The sweep is not the only method to get off strike or to get a bound­ary. Hashim Amla all but ended Graeme Swann’s ca­reer at the Oval in 2012, and it was Amla who dom­i­nated In­dia two years ear­lier, mak­ing three con­sec­u­tive hun­dreds in a two Test se­ries.

The likes of Amla, Jacques Kal­lis, Graeme Smith and AB de Vil­liers de­vel­oped meth­ods that have seen them dom­i­nate against spin.

As a re­sult South Africa built a proud record in the last decade; twice win­ning ODI se­ries’s against Pak­istan, an ODI se­ries for the first time in Sri Lanka in 2014 and beat In­dia in In­dia 3-2 in 2015. The biggest blip on re­cent trips to the sub-con­ti­nent was in Bangladesh when they lost a se­ries there 2-1.

Ravichan­dran Ash­win and Raven­dra Jadeja – in 2015 – and then Moeen Ali, who bowled with su­perb rhythm and with great flight in Eng­land last year, have been the spin­ners who most re­cently in the Test arena have dom­i­nated the Proteas bats­men.

But as far as One-Day cricket is con­cerned, it’s been a long time since spin­ners have proved so in­stru­men­tal in the out­come of a se­ries, as have Yuzven­dra Cha­hal and Kuldeep Ya­dav.

When South Africa won in In­dia in 2015, Harb­ha­jan Singh, Axar Pa­tel and Amit Mishrah, who did the ma­jor­ity of the spin bowl­ing for the hosts, claimed just 15 wick­ets be­tween them over the five match se­ries. Be­fore yes­ter­day’s match at the Wan­der­ers, Cha­hal and Ya­dav had taken 21 of the 28 South Africa wick­ets which fell.

“They’ve as­sessed the con­di­tions well, what speeds and lengths they need to bowl. They’ve not made it eas­ier for us to get runs. A lot of us have not picked their googlies,” JP Du­miny said af­ter the trounc­ing South Africa copped at New­lands in the third match.

“When you’re not pick­ing their ‘wrong ‘un’, you’re not go­ing to be com­fort­able at the crease, you’re al­ways a bit ten­ta­tive, once you pick what they’re bowl­ing you can play with con­fi­dence, with ease, with free­dom.”

In this day and age with so much footage avail­able from so many an­gles, to not be able to “pick” a bowlers vari­a­tions seems in­cred­i­ble.

It’s not as if ei­ther Cha­hal or Ya­dav are new to the scene; the former’s been con­tracted in the IPL for the past six years, al­though he only re­ally made a break­through in 2015 for the Ban­ga­lore fran­chise, while Ya­dav has been on the books of a cou­ple of IPL sides too.Yet de­spite all that data avail­able, South Africa have still looked clue­less when play­ing them. “We’ve got game­plans, but they’ve been good enough not to give us balls to play in our game­plan,” said Du­miny.

“You have to put your hand up and say they’ve been too good for us. They’ve bowled a touch slower than our spin­ners, and they haven’t bowled the ball full enough for us to hit down the ground, which is where we’ve usu­ally been suc­cess­ful in South African con­di­tions.”

South Africa’s bat­ting coach Dale Benken­stein ad­mit­ted he was “amazed” at how slowly both Cha­hal and Ya­dav bowled, but that slower pace of course al­lowed them to ‘rip’ the ball more.

Al­most as con­cern­ing as South Africa’s bat­ting woes, has been the fail­ure of South Africa’s spin­ners to even half match what Cha­hal and Ya­dav have done. Spin­ners picked up three wicket for the hosts – be­fore yes­ter­day – two of those to Du­miny, and Im­ran Tahir, re­cently ranked as the best ODI bowler in the world, had claimed just one.

There’s no magic for­mula that will cure South Africa’s ills here. As Smith, Kal­lis and Amla will at­test, it will re­quire hard work and pa­tience. This is not the ‘90s’ al­though it sure does feel that way…

Yuzven­dra Cha­hal

Kuldeep Ya­dav

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