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To start with, Sri Lanka, quite like their neighbours, have been ruthless hosts to the poor South Africans. Come Friday (July 20), South Africa would have one last chance to redeem their wretched recent Asian record. Maharaj testifies the belief and the motivation in the camp remains high, despite the battering at Galle.
“Everywhere you go in the world you want to be consistent in your lengths to cause the batter to be uncomfortable when you are bowling,” he explained. “That is something I had to pick up quickly after the first innings where I didn’t have a lot of rhythm. I found that in the second innings I put the ball in better areas than I did in the first innings.”
The 28-year-old is on his first tour to the sub-continent and has the charge of an inexperienced spin attack that includes a two-Test-old Tabraiz Shamsi and an uncapped Shaun von Berg. Also having played in predominantly seamer-friendly conditions thus far, it is a first for him to have another spinner in the side to have to form a partnership with. But he sounds confident, insisting that his pairing with Shamsi complements each others’ skills.
“Shamsi and I played a bit of domestic cricket together,” he said. “We’ve always known each other and what we are about, we enjoy bowling together. It is something new for me because I have never bowled with another spinner at international level, but it is a lot of fun.”
Maharaj saw a very different Sri Lanka back in 2016 when they’d visited South Africa on that disastrous tour. He also saw a very different Rangana Herath, who’d been easily neutralized by his batsmen. But out here in Sri Lanka, he’s got himself a chance to watch his hero get back to doing what he does best in his backyard.
“Sri Lanka are really good in their conditions, they showed that when they beat Australia here as well. There is everything to play for, South Africans are known to bounce back when we do lose our first match. The boys have worked hard, we are ready to give Sri Lanka a go in their conditions. We have come here as underdogs.”