Zimbabwe v South Africa, only Test, Harare, 1st day

Piedt makes immediate impact

It only took one ball for Dane Piedt to make his name as a Test bowler and early signs are good for South Africa's latest spin pretender

Firdose Moonda in Harare

August 9, 2014

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Dane Piedt celebrates a wicket off his first ball in Tests, Zimbabwe v South Africa, only Test, Harare, 1st day, August 9, 2014
Dane Piedt became the 19th man to take a wicket with his first ball in Tests © AFP
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There was flight on it, the elegant flight of an eagle, not the urgent flapping of some of its lesser cousins. There was turn on it, the sharp swerve of a hairpin bend, not the awkward angles negotiated at a stop sign by a vehicle with a stuttering engine. And it was laced with deception, the kind any good delivery has.

What happened next has only been experienced by 18 bowlers, of which only one was a South African, before Dane Piedt. The batsman Mark Vermeulen - who has not played a Test in a decade and was relying on memory as much as current form - defaulted to his strength of playing off the back foot, the ball thudded into his pad, keeping a little low, and the umpire raised his finger to give Piedt a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket.

Although the South Africans were noticeably more restrained in celebration than they have been in the past, Piedt could not contain himself. For a moment he threatened to impersonate another South Africa spinner Imran Tahir, and took off in the direction of the change room but he was hauled back swiftly. Luckily for South Africa, there was not too much else about Piedt that mirrored the man he replaced in the Test XI, which they will regard as a healthy indicator of their future plans.

Tahir was the only member of the side who did duty against Sri Lanka who was benched for this game. His exclusion backed up Hashim Amla's earlier statement that South Africa could re-examine the "role of the spinner" in this match. They needed to do that because, despite his promise, Tahir's returns were inadequate. Not only did he struggle to take wickets, but he lacked control, which weakened South Africa's attack overall. Piedt came with a reputation for being able to provide both.

In just one season as a fully fledged franchise cricketer - he has played in other domestic competitions and been a fringe member of the Cobras since 2009 - Piedt topped the first-class wicket-taking charts. He claimed 45 wickets at 19.93, including four five-fors and a hat-trick, but he also conceded only 2.50 runs to the over. That number is probably what gave him the nod over Simon Harmer, who was second on the wicket list and has been a consistent performer for the last few summers but more expensive.

'Tried to make statement first ball' - Piedt

  • During South Africa's training session at Harare Sports Club on Friday afternoon, Russell Domingo summoned Dane Piedt. "He told me, 'I've got some news for you, you're going to make Test debut tomorrow,'" Piedt said.
  • Piedt had already travelled with the South Africa squad through a series in Sri Lanka, where he spent his time preparing for exactly that moment. "I was part of a net sessions bowling to AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis and I learnt every day," he said. "Even if you learn 2%, you can take a lot out of it. I also did a lot of stealing with the eye and trying to get some tips for my own game."
  • What he spotted on Friday required no thievery though. "I saw the pitch and I fancied it," Piedt said. "I tried to make a statement with my first delivery."
  • Piedt was successful in doing that, though he confessed: "I enjoyed my second dismissal more. It was the ideal offspinner's dismissal, through the gate and hit top of off stump. And it was around the wicket too. I was trying to get the ball to straighten from there."
  • Although Piedt picked up four wickets, he felt he could have conceded fewer runs. "I didn't contain like I wanted to and like I should. There was a period straight after lunch where I got a bit greedy," he said.
  • But he promised he has more to offer in the second innings. "I have the topspinner and the carom ball too. I only bowled one carom ball at the back end today because I tried to keep it nice and simple. I wanted to settle into the rhythm of bowling plenty of overs from one side."

His ability to switch between containing and attacking approaches demonstrated not just skill but maturity and a mind which reads match situations. He also offered variety, with the doosra, carom ball and top-spinner in his arsenal, as well as aptitude with the bat. Naturally he was not expected to show all of that on Test debut but, so far, he has given glimpses that he may have what it takes to launch a successful international career.

Piedt turns the ball and he turns it properly. He is also not afraid to give it air and he uses his variations with discretion. He made mistakes like any rookie - offered the odd full toss, some which were a touch too short and others a touch too wide - but both he and his captain, showed guile and guise.

Because there was substantial turn on offer, they tried a change in angle to break through the defences of Hamilton Masakadza, bowling around the wicket to him after lunch. With the fifth ball of the new approach, Piedt was rewarded. His peach of an offspinner turned enough to sneak through the gate. Two balls later Amla's field placings were proved astute when Regis Chakabva flicked a full delivery straight to short midwicket. Brendon Taylor, caught slogging on 93, completed Piedt's haul.

That Piedt carried most of the South Africa load and enjoyed the biggest return of the day, equal with Dale Steyn, was helped by him finding conditions which suited him. Tahir had to wait 12 matches before finding the same. The pitch was drier than expected, probably best described by Zimbabwe's former class clown, left-arm spinner Ray Price, who owns the sports shop at Harare Sports Club and inspected the surface late on Friday afternoon. "It's rough as a badger's bottom," he said. "It will turn square from the first morning."

Price's mischievous streak often leads to exaggeration, so his jibe only elicited rolling of eyes then and a question from his audience. "So are you thinking of making a comeback then?" It was Price's turn to laugh for once. But it ended up being a lot more accurate than expected and Piedt was the one laughing at the end of the day. If the surface continues in this way, Piedt may even get the last laugh in the match and then later in the South African summer, when they decide which spinner to use against West Indies and beyond.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Gordo85 on (August 11, 2014, 8:42 GMT)

Don't forget one of my favourites Shaun von Berg who was just behind Dane Peidt and is also an All-rounder.

Posted by   on (August 10, 2014, 23:17 GMT)

Just the first innings but of he can fill the only void SA have had in their team since returning to cricket in the 90 s it would be very pleasing .

Posted by   on (August 9, 2014, 22:57 GMT)

Give him time and he will develop into a mighty fine spinner. He has all the attributes needed to be a threat. He can spin the ball, he has variation, and he seems to have a good head on his shoulders too. Good on you Dane Piedt! Keep up the good work!

Just by the way, some others to watch out for:

1. Eddie Leie (young legspinner - very highly rated) 2. Thandi Tshabalala (he's making a return to FC cricket - disappeared off the radar for a while) 3. Simon Harmer

Dane Piedt is the best prospect at the moment, but all three of the above could push their name forward in the near future.

Posted by SripriyaReddy on (August 9, 2014, 21:45 GMT)

Piedt's early success for SA automatically means an exit for Tahir. And Good to see a genuine spinner in Piedt, just hope he performs on a consistent basis. Anyways, best of luck SA.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (August 9, 2014, 18:26 GMT)

Thank God. I have waited 20 years for South Africa to find someone worth to be called a 'spinner'. He is no Warne, Murli, Kumble or Ajmal but he is the best prospect we have produced in 20 years and he will do well.

Posted by CARPEDIEM2WIN on (August 9, 2014, 16:32 GMT)

Good addition to the team

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