Cape Town – Proteas left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj hopes to gain insight on succeeding in spin-friendly conditions from Sri Lanka’s left-arm spinner Rangana Herath in the ongoing Test series.
This is Maharaj’s first tour of the sub-continent since making his debut in 2016, and the first opportunity for the prodigy to test his skills in conducive conditions.
Herath is one of the leading Test spinners in the world with a tally of 423 wickets in 91 matches, and is renowned for his accuracy and endurance at the age of 40.
Maharaj went wicketless in the first innings in Galle, but shook off the cobwebs in the second innings to finish with figures of 4/58.
He says the turn-around in his second-innings performance was due to more consistency in his lengths, and newfound rhythm after missing the tour warm-up match due to illness.
“Everywhere you go in the world you want to be consistent in your lengths to cause the batter to be uncomfortable when you are bowling,” he explained.
“That is something I had to pick up quickly after the first innings where I didn’t have a lot of rhythm. I found that in the second innings I put the ball in better areas than I did in the first innings.
“His consistency is phenomenal,” he said of Herath. “Left-arm spinners are known to control the game but he does something special. He turns the ball at will, he slides the ball on at will, it is something that I would love to learn in my trade and I will try to get some knowledge from him going forward.
“I spoke to him when Sri Lanka toured South Africa last year and he gave me some insight, I would like to pick his brain more about playing in sub-continent conditions. He is the best in the world at what he does.”
Tabraiz Shamsi has returned back to Sri Lanka after leaving the tour for family reasons, and will be available for selection for the must-win match.
The 28-year-old Maharaj says he has enjoyed being part of a two-man spin attack, and says the pair complement each other well in their different roles.
“Shamsi and I played a bit of domestic cricket together,” he said.
“We’ve always known each other and what we are about, we enjoy bowling together. It is something new for me because I have never bowled with another spinner at international level, but it is a lot of fun.”
Maharaj insists the belief and motivation remains high in the camp, despite the slow start to the series.
“We have come here as underdogs,” he said.
“Sri Lanka are really good in their conditions, they showed that when they beat Australia here as well. There is everything to play for, South Africans are known to bounce back when we do lose our first match. The boys have worked hard, we are ready to give Sri Lanka a go in their conditions.”
Sri Lanka lead the two-match Test series 1-0 with the second Test scheduled to get under way on Friday in Colombo (06:30 SA time).