Proteas’ Maharaj stumped by spin struggles

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South Africa’s first-choice spinner Keshav Maharaj is struggling to explain his disappointing performances in the series against Australia as visiting tweakers continue to toil through the local conditions.

Maharaj caught and bowled Steve Smith on 104 during the second session on day two of the final Test at the SCG on Thursday, claiming his first wicket of the three-match series.

Heading into day three, Maharaj has returned dispiriting figures of 1-260 across the three Tests but has hardly been alone in failing to make the best of the Australian decks.

West Indies tweaker Roston Chase took only three wickets across the two-match series to begin the summer and had particularly expensive first innings, posting 0-117 and 0-140.

While South Africa’s back-up spinner Simon Harmer looked promising on day one in Sydney, he finished day two at 0-109.

In contrast to the visiting bowlers, Australia’s veteran offspinner Nathan Lyon has taken 20 wickets across the two series so far this summer at an average of 19.80 and an economy rate of 2.77.

The 26th-highest ranked bowler in the world, Maharaj said he was unsure why he had struggled so much in Australia.

“Look, I’ve been working really hard,” he said.

“Sometimes you have ebbs and flows in your career.

“My body’s a bit tired. I can only tell you that if I was a machine, you could plug me in to see how low my batteries are.

“I’m probably not being at my most consistent in this tour if I’m being honest with myself.

“That’s something that I really need to address going forward. It’s probably less bowling and keeping my mind fresh more than anything else.”

Prior to their recent tours, West Indies and South Africa had last played in Australia in early 2016 and early 2017, respectively, with Maharaj saying that unfamiliar conditions may have contributed to the poor performances.

“There’s good wickets here in Australia. There’s no denying that,” he said.

“Obviously, you’re probably not going to get as much spin as you’re used to anywhere else in the world.

“The one thing you can work with is the bounce but also sometimes when you’re behind the eight-ball, it’s very difficult to bowl in a certain way and you bowl with spread fields.”

The strength of Australia’s batting line-up hasn’t made things any easier; each specialist batter in Australia’s first-choice XI has scored at least one century so far this summer.

“They have very sound, clear plans and they stick to them, which as batters is what you want to do. They’ve played it really, really well,” Maharaj said.

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