Playing three specialist spinners in a Twenty20 game on the subcontinent is always fraught with risk, given the small grounds, the slow pitches and batsmen looking to have a go at everything. Add to that an erratic Shaun Tait - for whom a focus on accuracy and reliance on extreme pace is mutually exclusive - and the risk is magnified.
Nathan Lyon, Adil Rashid and Aaron O'Brien played throughout South Australia's victorious Big Bash campaign, taking 29 wickets in seven games at under seven runs an over. That is a return of more than four wickets per game at a very reasonable cost. But that was in Australia, where the grounds are bigger and the wickets are faster, affording the spinners a better chance of success. A batsman might hole out to long-on at the MCG despite smashing one off the middle of the bat. In India, with the smaller boundaries, even mishits regularly go for sixes.
Unfortunately for South Australia, they ran into JJ Smuts, who was connecting with practically every attempt. Once Rashid and Lyon had gone for 34 in four overs, there was very little Michael Klinger could do to halt the Warriors' momentum. O'Brien did not make an impact either, and the three spinners disappeared for 69 in eight wicketless overs.
Tait had acknowledged before the game that one concern was that South Australia's spin-heavy tactics could backfire. It didn't help that Tait was at his most erratic, leaking a game-deciding 53 from four overs. Tait quit ODI cricket after the 2011 World Cup to concentrate the energies of his fragile body on T20s. But his either-full-or-short length makes one wonder if this is the right format to do justice to what's left of his career, especially on wickets where his raw pace loses some of its venom.
Klinger admitted that his side didn't bowl well. "We gave loose deliveries too often," he said. "We normally execute very well with the kind of deliveries we want to bowl but today they were hitting them." With the specialist bowlers failing in a bunch, Klinger had no choice but to turn to the medium-pace of the Daniels, Harris and Christian. Christian had a forgettable IPL a few months ago, but today he managed to restrict the Warriors' charge along with Harris.
One only wonders how big the margin of defeat would have been had the Warriors not eased off after 12 overs of the chase, safe in the knowledge that the game was theirs. They could afford to do that, having the luxury of all-international attack that makes an already stiff target of 172 appear much stiffer. Once Lonwabo Tsotsobe had taken two early wickets, it was always going to be a struggle for South Australia.
"Everything has gone to plan so far with all the quality we have ... Lopsy [Tsotsobe] is one of the best Twenty20 bowlers in the world," Botha said. "To have them three down in six overs was great for us."