Ken Borland

By Ken Borland


Keshav Maharaj full of praise for Proteas’ batting guru Justin Sammons

'The middle-order did not really fire, but I’m sure they’ll get that right in this Test coming up,'

Spin bowler Keshav Maharaj played a vital innings in the first Test against England that provided a crucial cushion for the Proteas, and on Tuesday he praised batting consultant Justin Sammons for the great work he has done with all the batsmen, the lower-order included.

When Maharaj came to the crease at Lord’s late on the second day in last week’s first Test, South Africa had slipped to 210/6, losing three wickets for 23 runs as England captain Ben Stokes produced an inspired spell for his team.

Lower-order batting

But Maharaj helped regain the momentum by scoring a pugnacious 41, as he and Marco Jansen (48) added 72 for the seventh wicket in just 12-and-a-half overs.

Read more: Proteas fight back late on day two at Lord’s to take charge of first Test

Anrich Nortje then added 28 not out on the third morning, boosting South Africa to a decisive first-innings lead of 161. It has been noticeable how much the batting of the lower-order has improved, and those runs are vital for a team playing with just six specialist batsmen and no real batting all-rounder.

“When Mark Boucher took over as coach, he really made us work hard on our batting because he knew how vital 70 runs can be,” Maharaj said. “So there’s lots of time spent by us in the nets.

“Mark, Justin Sammons and the other coaches really put in a lot of work throwing to us. Sammo has been exceptional for the batting unit as a whole, and he makes sure us in the lower-order really take care of the nitty-gritty of batting.

“As a batting unit, I’m sure the top six want more centuries, they are very driven. I’m sure in the second and third Tests we will see some hundreds.

“SJ Erwee showed really good application and he and Dean Elgar really set a good platform for us. The middle-order did not really fire, but I’m sure they’ll get that right in this Test coming up,” Maharaj said.

Elgar’s direct style

Speaking of Elgar, Maharaj said the captain’s direct style had been one of the reasons for the Proteas turnaround in Test cricket.

“We are more sound as a unit, we are going about our business a lot better,” Maharaj said. “From Dean’s first tour in charge to the West Indies last year, he put a lot of clarity in place.

“That’s what we needed, a bit of a shake-up. Dean is very driven and the youngsters feed off him as things have aligned in terms of discipline and culture.”

But Maharaj also respects the strength of the English camp ahead of the second Test starting at Old Trafford on Thursday.

“We know England are fierce competitors and they will do everything to try and bounce back. They have played some really good cricket in the last year.

“They have fought out of situations where they weren’t favoured to win. They have some world-class players and we know what they are capable of,” Maharaj warned.

Now read: Stokes insists England can recover from Proteas thrashing

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