Cape Town (South Africa), Mar.30 (ANI): A battery of South African spinners-acting captain Johan Botha, seasoned Robin Peterson and debutant Roelof van der Merwe played a crucial, luminary role in South Africa bagging the Standard Bank Pro20 highveld mini-series 2-0 against Australia.
The series sweep was a complete reversal of what happened Down Under several weeks back, and the weekend's successive wins before ecstatic, capacity crowds at the Wanderers and Centurion respectively stand the Proteas in pretty good stead for the second World Twenty20 jamboree in England not too long up the drag.
If anything, South Africa were even more clinical in the Centurion encounter, clinching it far more comfortably than they did the Johannesburg match, when they had owed much to old warhorse Mark Boucher's "death batting" composure to see them across the line after their challenge looked in danger of fizzling.
But the really salient development across the duo of games was the success of the South African spinners.
Botha was simply exemplary over both games; he is truly turning his off-spin into a strangulation art-form in both 50-over and Pro20 cricket.
In the first match, his concession rate in his full quota of four overs was only a fraction over six runs to the over, which is a bit like going for two-and-a-half an over in a full ODI. He was even better on Sunday, especially as he entered the attack at a time when the Aussies were on course in their pursuit of what at first seemed a very gettable target of 157.
Four of the deliveries in his first over were "dots" and, as neutral commentator Mark Nicholas observed, it effectively signalled the start of the Proteas' turnaround. The Warriors man eventually boasted a quite stunning analysis of 4-0-16-2.
Van der Merwe on his home ground provided ample evidence of his instinctive competitiveness, this time in the national shirt. And he did it with both bat and ball. Just as significantly, he "came back" in each department after uncertain starts.
When batting - creatively employed at No 5 - he took some time to get to grips with the slightly two-paced track, but just when it seemed the experiment had failed he dramatically cut loose, lashing his way to 48 off 30 balls.
Clearly he believes that if you are going to "go", you should go hard: one of his four sixes was teed up to go over mid-wicket and instead it soared high into the crowd over point!
Then with ball in hand, his first over surrendered 10 runs, the sort of event that might well rattle a rookie. Not Van der Merwe: things only got better as he speared in his leg-stump yorkers ever more cleverly at batsmen's toes.
Peterson, another left-arm spinner, has reinvented himself to a good degree in these two matches: at the Wanderers he shone at his primary trade (3/30) while in the follow-up match he showed he is capable of doing a job as an emergency-type opening batsman or pinch-hitter generally.
Full marks to the Proteas brains trust for their faith in the spinners: it took some bravery for them to go into the Wanderers with a seam cupboard comprising only Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell and Albie Morkel, and then Centurion with Johann Louw, Yusuf Abdulla and Morkel - the latter threesome an especially greenhorn mix. Yet the move paid fine dividends. (ANI)