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Keshav Maharaj. Picture: RYAN WILKISKY/BACKPAGE PIX
Keshav Maharaj. Picture: RYAN WILKISKY/BACKPAGE PIX

Sometimes, happily, there is nothing to do or say but celebrate and Monday’s 220-run victory in the first Test against Bangladesh was one of those days. Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer added their names to a short list of great bowling combinations which have dismissed an entire Test XI without the aid of a single over bowled by anybody else.

It was the 28th time it has happened in Test history but just the seventh in modern times, since 1994 when Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh dismissed England for a total of 46.

The first 20 occasions all took place before World War 2 and there were two more of these rarities in 1937 and 1957 before the great West Indian duo dismantled England at the Queens Park Oval in Trinidad.

The equally great Pakistani pair of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis humbled Sri Lanka for 71 in the same year while Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie saw off the West Indies for 51 in 1999. England’s James Anderson and Stuart Broad embarrassed New Zealand for 68 in 2013 but it took just four years for the Black Caps to return the favour with Trent Boult and Tim Southee seeing off their visitors for 58 at Eden Park in Auckland. Broad completed the feat a second time in partnership with Chris Woakes when Ireland were sent packing for 38 at Lord’s in 2019.

Note that they were all fast bowlers operating in extremely helpful conditions. SA’s “Maharmeraj” pair are the only spinners on the list and, while it was a fifth-day pitch, it was anything but unplayable and the Bangladesh batters are raised on a staple diet of spin bowling. Everything about their performance was simply brilliant, starting with their selection, which was brave and inspired.

Having become the first two specialist spinners to start a home Test since Kelly Seymour and Grahame Chevalier against Australia at Newlands in 1970, they became the first two SA spinners to claim all 10 wickets in an innings since Hugh Tayfield and Norman “Tufty” Mann did so against Australia in 1950, also at Kingsmead.

Maharaj and Harmer grabbed the headlines but, as always in a Test match victory, there were plenty of other important contributions. Captain Dean Elgar will feel he should have built much further on his pair of 60s but his team might have been in considerable trouble without them. Vice-captain Temba Bavuma remains in search of more Test centuries but his 93 was vital and he averages more than 50 in the last three series. They will come.

Lizaad Williams grew into the game in the first innings after a nervy start and, though he presumably remains well down the pecking order when Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen return, it was a satisfactory and, presumably, satisfying debut.

As was Ryan Rickelton’s in the middle order where he looked as comfortable and composed against seam and spin. The left-hander did not so much run out of partners in the second innings as run them out with the match seemingly at a critical stage. But despite playing little cricket for the past couple of months as he carried drinks during two tours, he showed more than enough class to persevere with. Being a wicketkeeper also means healthy competition for Kyle Verreynne.

Equally enjoyable to watch was the snarl between the teams, though it may not have been to everybody’s taste. To keep making progress towards the team they are capable of being, Bangladesh have to convince their opponents — and mostly themselves — that they will not take a backward step or be bullied. SA teams have intimidated many opponents over the years and, in turn, were intimidated by Australia. 

There was a spicy exchange of words between Elgar and Bangladesh head coach, Russell Domingo, before the start of play on the fourth morning during which both suggested that their players might want to reconsider their attitudes. The two men know and respect each other in equal measure and there is absolutely no doubt they will embrace after the series and share a drink, but for now the swords are drawn.

Elgar is desperate to make the best of his depleted squad and keep alive the dream of reaching the final of the World Test Championship, an achievement that would define his career. And former Proteas coach Domingo is equally determined to keep his new team delivering historic results, which would define his.

Onwards to St George’s Park in Gqberha where another spin-friendly pitch awaits. Sri Lanka are the only Asian team to win a Test series in SA and they did so three years ago by winning a dramatic Test at Kingsmead and following it up with another at St George’s.

The Proteas struggled to disguise their dismay that Bangladesh were scheduled to play at the same venues. Not anymore. Not with “Maharmeraj” in the starting XI. Expect more of the same.

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