Proteas en­list three spin­ners for Sri Lanka

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

Proteas spin bowl­ing coach Claude Henderson says that, just be­cause there are three tweak­ers in the side that leaves for Sri Lanka to­day, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily sud­denly a spin­ning team.

In an­nounc­ing the team, the na­tional se­lec­tors more than cov­ered their spin bases for the two-test tour of Sri Lanka – which will also take in five one-day in­ter­na­tion­als and the oblig­a­tory T20 – by pick­ing the rather dif­fer­ent trio of in­cum­bent Keshav Ma­haraj (left-arm or­tho­dox), the re­called Tabraiz Shamsi (left-arm Chi­na­man) and the un­capped Shaun von Berg (right-arm leg break).

But Henderson is not even sure we’ll get to see two spin­ners play to­gether in one of the tests.

“With the sub­con­ti­nent, you never know what they’re go­ing to pre­pare. So we don’t know what con­di­tions we’ll play in and this gives us op­tions.

“The se­lec­tors wanted to cover all their bases and all three of them have dif­fer­ent at­tributes, which is a great thing for us.”

Henderson said the 31-year-old Von Berg’s se­lec­tion for the tests had been well de­served af­ter a 96-game first-class career high­lighted by 345 wick­ets and a bat­ting av­er­age of 28.71.

“Shaun has shown a lot of con­sis­tency as a leg-spin­ner,” he said. “It also helps that he can bat be­cause it makes a mas­sive dif­fer­ence if your num­ber eight to 11s can bat a bit. He’s an­other op­tion for [head coach] Ot­tis Gib­son and [cap­tain] Faf du Plessis to look at.”

The fiery Shamsi’s re­turn comes af­ter a pe­riod in which it seemed he was des­tined to be type­cast as a white ball spe­cial­ist, but Henderson said the cheeky Ti­tans man could prove valu­able in Sri Lanka.

“Apart from be­ing a Chi­na­man bowler, he’s unique be­cause of the pace he bowls at with the rev­o­lu­tions he puts on the ball. He’s worked hard on his bowl­ing and has per­formed well.

“He’s a tough cus­tomer in spin­ning con­di­tions with that pace and the Sri Lankans have a few left-handed bats­men in their team. To have some­one who can spin the ball away from them will be a good thing for us.”

Henderson said they hadn’t quite reached the point where they were wor­ried about fast bowler Kag­iso Rabada’s work­load. He re­turns from a back in­jury that forced him to

miss this year’s In­dian Premier League af­ter his hero­ics against Aus­tralia el­e­vated him to the num­ber one ranked test bowler in the game.

“He’s done a lot of work and his se­ries against Aus­tralia was phe­nom­e­nal. He has bowled a lot, but he’s had his rest and is back and fully fit to con­tinue.”

Henderson said re­verse swing had been crit­i­cal in the past se­ries against Sri Lanka, so he’s ex­pect­ing it to be a fac­tor again, which is when the re­turn­ing Dale Steyn will be a fac­tor with Rabada.

“Steyn is a cham­pion who’s proved him­self in the past. He bowls re­verse swing, which will be im­por­tant in this se­ries.

“It’s been nice to see him play in county cricket and do well. He’s not fin­ished yet – he’s got those three wick­ets for the record and who knows, maybe 500 wick­ets is next.”

Henderson sounded a lot less con­cerned about how the re­tired AB de Vil­liers would be re­placed in the team.

“AB was phe­nom­e­nal for South African cricket, but we have to look at the fu­ture,” he said.

“The­u­nis de Bruyn has pa­tiently waited his turn and Hein­rich Klaasen has been good. I’m sure we’ll dis­cuss it when we get to Sri Lanka, but one guy re­tir­ing is an­other’s op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing spe­cial. It’ll take time, but no­body’s ir­re­place­able.”

PHOTO: LEE WAR­REN / GALLO IMAGES

RIS­ING STAR The­u­nis de Bruyn could re­place re­tired AB de Vil­liers

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