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Recalled spinner rattles Aussies in South Africa

Cricket

It was billed as a pace shootout for the ages, but already the undercard is threatening to upstage the main event in the Test series between Australia and South Africa.

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Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj claimed the prized scalp of Steve Smith then dismissed Shaun Marsh on day one of the series opener in Durban.

Maharaj was comfortably the pick of the bowlers on Thursday, which finished with Australia 5-225 and the first Test in the balance.

The 28-year-old could also have easily dismissed David Warner with his first ball, which produced a confident lbw shout and referral.

Ball-tracking replays suggested the sharp-turning delivery was missing leg stump by some margin, although not everybody was convinced.

“Usman (Khawaja) told me he thought it was out as well, but at the end of day HawkEye proved everyone wrong,” Maharaj said.

The tweaker was left out of the Proteas’ XI during their previous Test, such is the strength of their pace stocks.

Incredible precision, a slow pitch and intimate knowledge of his home ground made for a productive recall. Australia’s batsmen were able to leave a single delivery during Maharaj’s 24 overs, such was his accuracy.

“He controlled it well from one end, especially when the ball was going reverse,” Warner said.

“He held up one end very well … slowed our scoring down.”

Nathan Lyon, the world’s leading Test wicket-taker in 2017, will no doubt be licking his lips at the prospect of bowling in the final innings of the game.

“Gazza’s turn and bounce, that will play a key role for us,” Warner said.

“Come day three or day four it’s probably going to err on the low side and I think definitely spin is going to play a role in this game.”

Maharaj also dismissed Smith in Perth while helping the Proteas record a series win that humiliated Australia in 2016-17.

He was thrilled to get the better of the world’s best batsman again, having been brought on at Kingsmead after 10 overs.

“I was really excited to get his wicket,” Maharaj said.

“We do a lot of planning with the spin bowling coaches, the video analysts and things like that. To gain the reward is a really nice feeling.

“I don’t have many variations so I’ve got to rely on consistency to outsmart the batsmen.

“Kingsmead happens to be one of those wickets where if you just stop the scoring something will happen.”

– AAP

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