No spinner has topped the averages or led the wickets-for in any of the five Test series SA have played in Sri Lanka.
But with SA’s fast bowling stocks having taken a hit with Morné Morkel’s retirement and injuries to Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn‚ the slow poisoners might have to shoulder more than their share of the burden when the teams tangle for the sixth time on the Asian island’s slow surfaces in July.
Keshav Maharaj‚ that means you. The left-armer has played 20 Tests in SA‚ Australia‚ England‚ New Zealand and Zimbabwe among his 103 first-class matches.
But only one of those games has been on the subcontinent: Maharaj took 2/13 and 2/79 in a total of 46.3 overs for SA A against their India counterparts in Kerala in August 2015.
So the two Tests SA will play in Sri Lanka loom as both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity of his career so far.
If Maharaj brings to the task the calm head and resolute application he has shown to date‚ he will do what is asked of him and more.
But the rest of Faf du Plessis’s attack is a work in progress that will have to be completed in less than three months.
Rabada may make it back from his three-month lay-off with a stress fracture of the back in time for the series.
Shoulder and heel problems have taken Steyn out of 24 of the 29 Tests SA have played since December 2015 and he has been hurt in three of five he has played. He will hope to prove his fitness in the one-day game and first-class match he is currently set to play for Hampshire in June and he could feature in more.
Who is left? SA could do worse for a leader of the attack than Vernon Philander‚ and Lungi Ngidi and Chris Morris are also frontline options.
The cupboard is far from bare‚ which is no bad thing considering the equation of seam and spin SA have tried to balance in Sri Lanka in their 25 years of touring there.
Nicky Bojé came the closest to besting SA’s quicks there in 2004‚ when he matched Shaun Pollock’s series haul of 10 wickets. Thing is‚ Bojé’s average for the rubber was 41.9‚ or not in the same postal code as Pollock’s 19.4.
Even so‚ Bojé is SA’s most successful bowler in Sri Lanka with 25 scalps‚ but he is also the most capped player there.
Their highest wicket-taker for SA in a single series in Sri Lanka is Brett Schultz‚ who claimed 20 — twice as many as Bojé’s best effort — in their first rubber there in August and September 1993.
The other bowlers who have taken Test wickets in Sri Lanka are JP Duminy‚ Pat Symcox‚ Paul Adams‚ Imran Tahir‚ Daryll Cullinan and Jacques Rudolph.
Make of that varying list what you will but know that spinners have taken less than a quarter — 23.6% — of all the wickets SA have claimed there.
Know‚ then‚ that seam rules spin for SA‚ even in Sri Lanka.
Even Maharaj‚ clever oke that he is‚ knows that.