“Shamsi has only played eight ODIs for South Africa till date, but if given a longer rope, the bowler has the potential to establish himself in this line-up”
After a drubbing in the Test series, South Africa bounced back emphatically to emerge victorious in the first ODI against Sri Lanka. Spinners were once again talk of the town as it has been throughout the series. South Africa had a huge psychological barrier to overcome doing into the ODI series and by looking at the way things have fared for them in the first outing, it would be safe to say that they did it quite effectively.
Spin once again played a huge role, but this time it was Sri Lanka who were on the receiving end. After Kagiso Rabada’s early kills, Tabraiz Shamsi wreaked havoc with the ball to restrict Sri Lanka to 193 in their backyard. Shamsi and Rabada accounted for four wickets apiece and laid the foundation for a convincing South African win. Their batsmen did well to get the required runs and overcome the Akila Dananjaya threat.
With South Africa gaining a lead in the five-match series, one can only expect the series to spice up unlike the Test series, which was a one-sided affair. With Shamsi finding his rhythm with the ball and Keshav Maharaj in form, South Africa stand a huge chance of claiming this series and seek revenge for the Test defeat.
At 36 for 5, Sri Lanka were in all sorts of trouble with Kagiso Rabada being the wrecker-in-chief. The stage was set for South Africa but Kusal Perera and Thisara Perera resisted the pumped bowling attack. A partnership was building for Sri Lanka and at the right time, but just when things were slipping out of South Africa’s control, Shamsi broke the partnership by getting rid of Thisara on 49.
Moments later, Shamsi cleaned up Akila Dananjaya to put Sri Lanka in hot water. Kusal was scoring runs at one end and Shamsi broke Sri Lanka’s spine by removing him on 81. The prized wicket was scalped as Sri Lanka bundled out for 193 with Shamsi chipping the final wicket of Lahiru Kumara. There was help in the surface and the left arm chinaman exploited it to the fullest. He was adjudged Man of the match for his figures of 4 for 33 in 8.3 overs. After a poor run against India, this is Shamsi’s career-best ODI figures.
Shamsi belongs to the rare breed of wrist-spinners, the breed has been making rounds across the globe for their effectiveness in this batsmen-dominated game. More importantly, Shamsi is a chinaman and possesses a deadly googly, which he bowls without any discernible change in action. South Africa have preferred Maharaj and Shamsi to shoulder the spin responsibilities for the ongoing ODI series ahead of Leggie Imran Tahir. In this encounter, they went with only one specialist spinner – Shamsi. South Africa should invest in Shamsi’s calibre, he can reap fruitful dividends in the long run across formats.
Shamsi spoke about his role and how the conditions in this game were very similar to the ones back in South Africa. He was quoted in a report from Cricbuzz saying, “To be honest, I felt like it was a bit more of a South Africa type of wicket. There wasn’t much spin, especially because we bowled first. We bowl a lot on pitches like this back home so it was okay to adjust.”
“Every time I play, I try to do my best for the team. I have been given freedom by the captain and the coach to try to express myself, I am glad I was able to produce today. Cricket is a funny game, you are not always going to have a good day, sometimes things might go wrong. I have been given the freedom to express myself and to try and take wickets, on another day my job might be to contain and hold the game. It depends on what is required of me,” he added.
South Africa certainly missed a trick in playing three specialist seamers and just one spinner in the second Test. Shamsi had a decent outing in the first Test, after which his exclusion in the second encounter raised many eyebrows. Maharaj was the solitary specialist spinner in the attack, who made the Sri Lankan batsmen dance to his wily spin tunes. South Africa did put up a show, but the contest would have been more intriguing had Shamsi played alongside Maharaj.
Shamsi has only played eight ODIs for South Africa till date, but if given a longer rope, the bowler has the potential to establish himself in this line-up. South Africa have shown immense faith in his abilities and gave him a chance ahead of Maharaj in the series opener. Shamsi has delivered what was expected out of him and will be the bowler to watch in the matches to come.