Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Karachi, 2nd day October 2, 2007

A day where left-arm spinners dominated

Two left-arm spinners took six wickets between them today in the first Test between Pakistan and South Africa. Is the art of left-arm becoming fashionable again?



A high-arm action, with his height, purchases him bounce, and makes Paul Harris a valuable left-arm spinner on any surface © Getty Images

Monty Panesar is Test cricket's hottest bowling property and Daniel Vettori was one of the best bowlers of the Twenty20 World Cup. Today two other left-arm spinners loomed large over a day of Test cricket in Karachi. Perish the thought, but are left-arm spinners becoming fashionable again?

Days on which left-arm spinners dominate a Test are rare enough and today was a special treat. In recent history, only Bangalore 1987 when Iqbal Qasim and Maninder Singh locked classical left-arms and Mumbai 2004, when Murali Kartik and Michael Clarke did so more freakishly, stand out.

Abdur Rehman and Paul Harris have only just started, but for those of a purist bent, who enjoy a dainty, leftie twirl, six wickets between the two were pleasant reward. The circumstances and style differed, but given the breed's rarity, no one should quibble.

Rehman, shorter, flatter maybe, and bowling with a lower arm, took wickets many might call cheap. But after a poor first day on which he bowled only 10 overs, he was willing to fight for what was a four-wicket haul on debut. "Wickets are wickets, tail-enders, top-order whatever and I got four of them," Rehman said. "I'm still very happy about it. Not many get to play Test cricket and I got four on debut.

"I wasn't nervous as such. Shoaib [Malik] backed me up and told me to treat it as I would any first-class game," he said.

But Rehman is nothing if not pragmatic and he admitted the context was different to the first day. "We maybe attacked too much yesterday, which is why they scored runs so easily. Today the plan was to contain them and I changed my bowling to suit that. They were trying to score runs and we picked up wickets in the process."

The surface helped, no doubt, and is likely to help more as the match moves on: "There is definitely turn though it is slow, but that is changing as the match progresses and spinners will get even more help," he said.

So it proved for Harris. Only in his fifth Test, the tall, rangy Harris looks a fast bowler. Not only his height, but his love for surfing somehow seems a more fast-bowler's thing to do really. But South Africa have invested considerable hope in him, not only for this tour but in the years ahead.

Thus far - and it's not that far yet - it appears a sound investment. A high-arm action, with his height, purchases him bounce, which is a priceless commodity on any surface. The situation of having runs in the bank also allowed him flight, more than Rehman.

And here, at least, he turned big. On the occasions he found both turn and bounce, as when beating Younis Khan and hitting Mark Boucher flush in the face, he was Derek Underwood-deadly.

He swiftly did for both openers, in a manner any of his kind would be proud of. Mohammad Hafeez edged to slip while Kamran Akmal was trapped by an arm ball. Or so it appeared for as he is a South African spinner (rare as they are), it was quickly pointed out it could have been that it just didn't turn. Few in South Africa will be bothered as after a confident, brisk start, the strikes crippled Pakistan. Given their record against left-arm spinners, no eyebrows were raised.

Osman Samiuddin is the Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments