Pakistan v South Africa 2013-14 October 9, 2013

SA plan on sole spinner for Pakistan Tests


If Claude Henderson, South Africa's spin consultant, had it his way, he would "absolutely," play all the slower bowlers available to him in the two Test series against Pakistan. Head coach Russell Domingo has indicated South Africa will go into the series with just one specialist spinner, likely to be Robin Peterson, but Henderson hopes the others can also play a role.

"It's going to be such a tough decision, especially if we know it will turn square, to decide who to leave out," Henderson said. Along with Peterson, South Africa have recalled Pakistani-born legspinner Imran Tahir to the squad and have the services of JP Duminy, who is set to play a bigger role with the ball.

None of them was able to extract much from the pitch during the practice match in Sharjah - one that Peterson called so flat it is "difficult to tell anything on, in terms of skill level", but Henderson said they've all been hard at work to fight for a Test spot. He was particularly pleased with the progress Tahir had made after being dropped following a dismal showing in the Adelaide Test against Australia last year, when he conceded 260 runs and did not take a wicket.

"It's great to see Imran back after a tough time. It was really brave of him to come back and perform today. He is in a good space at the moment," Henderson said. Tahir got better as the day went on but started with a spell that questioned whether he had made any progression at all. His first spell included too many full tosses and made use of too many variations, but he started to trouble the batsman towards the end of the day as he turned the ball a touch and zoned in on better lengths.

In complete contrast, Peterson needed no time to adjust and immediately did a good holding job. He was also the first bowler to take a wicket. "Robin is improving day by day, in terms of tactics and technically," Henderson said.

Duminy was also economical and created chances towards the end of the day, one just missing Asad Shafiq's outside edge, to endorse Peterson's claim that he is a "genuine wicket-taker." Duminy will likely bowl a significant number of overs in the Test series as South Africa groom him for greater things. "JP is now realising he can bowl and his challenge is now to become a good all-rounder," Henderson said.

With Duminy and Peterson likely to start, South Africa will have two slower bowling options but Peterson confirmed it remains a dream of his to play in an attack with Tahir: "I'd love to play in a Test match for South Africa with two specialist spinners. I love bowling with Imran and I think we work well together."

Despite equipping themselves adequately with spin, South Africa are being realistic about their prowess in that department. When asked to rate his spinners using Pakistan's as a yardstick, Henderson refused. "I won't compare my spinners to anyone else," Henderson said. "I look at a guy and see how he can become the best bowler he can be. I will not say go and be like Saeed Ajmal, because that is the standard."

Even Azhar Ali, the Pakistan No. 3, would not be drawn into talking about the two attacks. An expert blocker, both on the field and in the press conference, he merely said it was "difficult to say" how South Africa's spinners measure up but that it was "enjoyable batting against them." Read what you will into that.

It probably indicates what we all already know: that pace remains South Africa's strength, even on subcontinent-like surfaces. That's why what the fast bowlers ended up with may have had them questioning whether they will be able to get results on tracks on the tour.

Only Morne Morkel took a wicket while Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander were made to work hard. Peterson does not believe the way they performed today is a reflection of how they will do in the coming two weeks. "Dale and Vernon are quality bowlers and when they put on that Test cap and walk over the white line, that's something completely different," Peterson said.

The same has been said of Graeme Smith, who was the only South African in the top five not to score a half-century on the first day of the match. He will cross the boundary rope tomorrow to try and rectify that and show his readiness for next week's Test.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sharky on October 15, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    South Africa will miss Imran Tahir. If one of the main complaints about he's recent bowling is that he bowls too much variation, then it isn't such a big problem that the captain can't solve. SA needs a plan and a field to make Tahir successful. Just think spin-like in those situations.

  • shahid on October 12, 2013, 7:21 GMT

    SA should be ready to face a 3 spinner attack. Ajmal, Zulfiqar Baber and Rehman, all three will be in the playing eleven. Junid or Irfan will share the new ball with Shan who plays as an opner cum fast bowler.

  • Android on October 12, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    Guys, the success of Ajmal and Rehman against England, did not come from square turners, in fact I would say it was sheer skill and set up. All they need is a bit of grip from the pitch to deviate the ball to get the job done. Too much assistance from the pitch isn't helpful for bowlers like Ajmal, who bowl line and length. Also, brace your self guys we have another gem in Zulfiqar Babar for our arsenal in the series. I think SA is missing a trick for playing only one, should definitely try Imran Tahir.

  • Graham on October 10, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    Faf du Plessis should also be given some overs I feel. Him and Duminy can work in lieu of a 6th bowler.

  • Muhammad on October 10, 2013, 20:30 GMT

    South Africa should learn from England who after defeat in UAE brought in Panesar to assist Swann. They improved a lot and eventually won a test series in India using spin bowling as their weapon. Australia made the mistake of playing single spinner or non regular ones in India and they had to bear the loss. South Africa will have to adopt the "horses for courses" strategy to win a series in UAE.

    I am sorry to say but it's true that Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir are not in the league of Ajmal, Rahman, Swann or Panesar. JP Duminy can assist as part time spin option but single front line spinner is definitely going to struggle.

  • des on October 10, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    Tahir over Peterson please, no point in selecting a 'holding' spinner, Duminy can do that.

  • yuvraj on October 9, 2013, 20:53 GMT

    Our strength is pace and they all can bowl over 140KM/h. So its wise to go with 3 pacers. I hope we will play specialist WK this time. AB needs to focus on his batting.

  • Blessing on October 9, 2013, 17:40 GMT

    Imran Tahir and Duminy are the best options for taking care of the spin bowling duties

  • James on October 9, 2013, 17:07 GMT

    Gee, on a side note, just looking at the ages of some of the players from SA it's clear to me that they are going to have A LOT of work to do in a few years time. They are all around 30 and above barring a few players who are late twenties. It's good for optimum performance, but you have to hope you have the backups ready in time before the exodus of great players within the space of a few years. Hopefully they have their succession plans in place for their sake.

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2013, 17:01 GMT

    it was a practice match . nothing can be said for sure. But 1 thing is certain that pcb will make spinning tracks not anything to support pacers. Styen Phil and morkel are good enough with new ball. But it will not be a piece of cake. SA should play imran with duminy and robin.

    Pakistan have ajmal and rehman and i think they should select ahmed shehzad as 2nd opener and he can bowl leg spin as well as azhar ali.

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