It will surprise no one that the three most successful bowlers in Tests against South Africa are all spinners and two of them are from the sub-continent.
They are‚ in order of wickets taken against the South Africans‚ Shane Warne of Australia‚ Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka and Anil Kumble of India.
Arrange the same names differently — Muralithran‚ Warne and Kumble — and you have‚ in that order‚ the top three wicket-takers in Test history‚ who between them are responsible for making 2 127 batsman trudge defeated back to dressing rooms around the world.
But the theory that South Africans are poor players of spin bowling persists and will no doubt be dusted off and given a fresh coat of opinion for their series of two Tests in Sri Lanka‚ which starts in Galle on July 12.
Indeed‚ Aiden Markram came prepared on the subject at a press conference in Colombo on Thursday.
“Any sub-continent conditions are going to be a very difficult challenge to South Africa‚” the Proteas opener admitted.
“It’s been winter at home and we’ve been trying to simulate playing conditions here‚ where the ball stays a bit lower.
“During our winter‚ wickets tend to keep a lot lower than in summer‚ so that’s helped us. We batted in different creases and on worn out tracks and tried to get some spin. We tried to make things as realistic as possible to stimulate conditions here.”
Fact is‚ South Africa are less ham-handed against the slow stuff than even they might think.
Of the 5 880 wickets they have lost in Tests‚ 2 180 have fallen to spinners and 3 700 to seam bowlers and that is 37.07% and 62.93% respectively.
How might that compare to‚ say‚ England’s batsmen?
Spinners have claimed 33.74% of their wickets and fast bowlers 66.26%.
But it is true that South Africa have lost more wickets to spin in the sub-continent than in any other away countries‚ and in fewer matches.
They have played 45 Tests in Asia‚ where 442 of their scalps have been earned by spinners.
In England‚ where they have played 71 matches‚ the slow poisoners have done for 318 Saffers.
In Australia and New Zealand‚ those figures become 61 Tests and 275 wickets.
So it’s commendable that Markram and the rest of South Africa’s frontline batsmen have arrived in Sri Lanka having done their homework.
But the examination that starts in Galle on July 12 will be tough nonetheless.
Source: TMG Digital.