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SA vs Ban – 2nd Test – The Keshav Maharaj-Simon Harmer partnership

With the new ball “ragging”, as Sarel Erwee put it, Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer can continue to stake a claim for playing together as a spin duo in the future. The two opened the bowling in the second innings of the Gqeberha Test against Bangladesh, as they had in the first Test, and have already dismissed the top three and could be eyeing a repeat of their performance in Durban, where they took all ten second-innings wickets to bowl South Africa to victory.

Theirs is an unusual combination – Kingsmead was the first time since 1970 that South Africa had played two spinners in a home Test – but given their skills, could be something that South Africa make use of more often, as they move away from their heavy reliance on pace. On slower, late-summer pitches, South Africa have altered their strategy completely, to the point where they planned the declaration around how best to use the spinners.

After deciding to set Bangladesh a minimum target of 400, Dean Elgar declared with half-an-hour left to play in the day, knowing that in fading light with the ball turning, things would not be easy for Bangladesh. “As an opener, It makes your heart flutter a little bit [to see spinners with the new-ball],” Erwee said. “It’s not a nice period, that twilight period. And we’ve got two world-class spinners, so it makes it even worse to go and face them.”

Maharaj took the first wicket with a ball that turned away from Mahmudul Hasan Joy and took the edge, and then got Najmul Hossain Shanto with one that didn’t turn as much. After that, Harmer got one to spin and take Tamim Iqbal’s edge. The indecision they created in the Bangladesh batters’ minds underscored their vast experience and ability to build and maintain pressure, which appears to be rubbing off on each other.

“They’ve played a lot of cricket for a lot of years so they know their craft through and through,” Erwee said. “They’ve got different variations, they bowl at different speeds and they’ve bowled in different conditions around the world.”

South Africa’s next Test assignment is in England, where Harmer has enjoyed many seasons of county success and Maharaj has also had goot times. It would seem a no-brainer not only to include them both in the touring party but to even play them in the XI, and their performance in Gqeberha may well be on the selectors’ minds.

“We share a good relationship off the field so you get to know each other and what makes each other tick. Taking that off field relationship onto the field makes you understand your partner a little bit better”

Sarel Erwee on his partnership with Dean Elgar

At the other end of the South African scorecard, in the batting department, another kind of solid partnership is taking shape, with Erwee and Elgar putting up impressive early numbers. In eight innings together, the pair has posted two century and two fifty-plus stands and average 49.62, a vast improvement on the 31.48 that Elgar and Aiden Markram shared. Erwee put their success down to their friendship off the field and their familiarity with each other’s games.

“We share a good relationship off the field so you get to know each other and what makes each other tick,” Erwee said. “Taking that off field relationship onto the field makes you understand your partner a little bit better.”

But does he think, with one hundred and two scores in the 40s, he has done enough to lay claim to the spot in the medium term? “I’ve got to put up some bigger scores on the board to help myself,” Erwee said.

Erwee won’t have any more domestic cricket to do that this season, but he has probably done enough to merit being included in the squad this winter and continue to challenge Markram for the long-term role.

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