Make or break time for Shamsi

Strug­gling spin­ner must step up in T20s or risk miss­ing Proteas’ World Cup se­lec­tion

Cape Argus - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS @shock­er­hess

HAVE THE South African se­lec­tors done Tabraiz Shamsi any favours by shov­ing him into the spot­light for the last two T20 In­ter­na­tion­als against Zim­babwe?

That’ll be an­swered this week­end for Shamsi, an ebul­lient per­son­al­ity, will find that his per­for­mances are go­ing to be more closely scru­ti­nised now that he is the pri­mary spin­ner in the Proteas team.

Im­ran Tahir’s bois­ter­ous ef­forts against Zim­babwe in the last week have meant the spot­light’s been off Shamsi, who has strug­gled in the last two matches against Hamil­ton Masakadza’s side, con­ced­ing a to­tal of 115 runs in 14 overs with­out tak­ing a wicket.

In those two matches, Shamsi’s con­ceded nine fours and five sixes with his in­abil­ity to find a proper length in East Lon­don on Tues­day al­most open­ing the door for the Zim­bab­weans.

The na­tional se­lec­tors made an in­ter­est­ing de­ci­sion to give Tahir some more leave for the re­main­der of the se­ries.

In the last nine days, Tahir claimed a hat-trick in the se­cond ODI, opened the bowl­ing in the fi­nal ODI and then claimed a “five­fer” in the first T20 International to show with­out any doubt that he’s the coun­try’s best lim­ited overs spin­ner. He even made time to run a coach­ing clinic for the op­po­si­tion team’s spin­ner Bran­don Mavuta in East Lon­don as well.

Shamsi, who is close to Tahir off the field, must hope some of his pal’s magic has rubbed off on him as he tries to find some form again.

While a dif­fer­ent for­mat to what will be played at the World Cup next year, these T20 matches re­main “tri­als” of sorts and Shamsi can ill af­ford a slip up now as he seeks to se­cure that se­cond front­line spin­ner’s berth for Eng­land.

He ac­tu­ally bowled very well in Sri Lanka, ini­tially in the first Test and then in the three ODI matches he played, pick­ing up six wick­ets and con­ced­ing runs at an aver­age rate of 4.84 an over. He was suc­cess­ful in the T20 match there too, pick­ing up 2/26 in that match.

Quite where it’s gone wrong for him is hard to say, other than the strug­gles he had with his lengths on Tues­day.

The se­lec­tors are prob­a­bly count­ing on Shamsi’s love of the spot­light to help him rekin­dle some form. It’s just that any miss-step at this stage for a player who hasn’t yet ce­mented his spot in the squad for the World Cup - as Tahir al­most cer­tainly has - will open the door for some­one like Keshav Ma­haraj, who showed in Sri Lanka that he could be a ca­pa­ble op­er­a­tor in the lim­ited overs for­mats.

Add in the fact that he is ar­guably a bet­ter bats­man and cer­tainly a bet­ter fielder than Shamsi, and the con­cerns grow for the left-arm wrist-spin­ner to put in some vastly im­proved per­for­mances this week­end.

David Miller said yes­ter­day that the prac­tices pitches at Sen­wes Park, which hosts the se­cond T20 be­tween the Proteas and Zim­babwe to­day, were a bit slower than ex­pected, which will only add to the im­por­tance (and pres­sure) for Shamsi’s four overs.

To­day’s match starts at 6pm.

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