It will surprise no-one that the three most successful bowlers in Tests against SA are all spinners‚ nor that two of them are from the subcontinent.
The mitigating factor is that all three could bowl a bit.
They are‚ in order of wickets taken against the South Africans‚ Shane Warne‚ Muttiah Muralitharan and Anil Kumble.
Arrange the same names differently — Muralitharan, Warne and Kumble — and you have‚ in that order‚ the top three wicket-takers in Test history‚ who between them are responsible for making 2,127 batsman trudge defeated back to dressing rooms around the world.
But the theory that South Africans are poor players of spin bowling persists and will no doubt be dusted off and given a fresh coat of opinion for the series of two Tests in Sri Lanka‚ which starts in Galle on July 12.
Indeed‚ Aiden Markram came prepared on the subject at a media conference in Colombo on Thursday. "Any subcontinent conditions are going to be a very difficult challenge to SA‚" Markram admitted.
"It’s been winter at home and we’ve been trying to simulate playing conditions here‚ where the ball stays a bit lower.
"During our winter‚ wickets tend to keep a lot lower than in summer‚ so that helped us.
"We batted in different creases and on worn out tracks and tried to get some spin.
"We tried to make things as realistic as possible to stimulate conditions here."
Fact is‚ SA are less ham-handed against the slow stuff than even they might think.
Of the 5,880 wickets they have lost in Tests‚ 2,180 have fallen to spinners and 3,700 to seam bowlers. That is 37.07% and 62.93%. How might that compare to‚ say‚ England’s batsmen? Spinners have claimed 33.74% of their wickets and fast bowlers 66.26%.
But it is true that SA have lost more wickets to spin in the sub-continent than in any other away countries‚ and in fewer matches. They have played 45 Tests in Asia‚ where 442 of their scalps have been earned by spinners.
In England‚ where they have played 71 matches‚ the slow poisoners have done for 318 Saffers. In Australia and New Zealand‚ those figures become 61 Tests and 275 wickets.
So it is commendable that Markram and SA’s frontline batsmen have arrived in Sri Lanka having done their homework. But the examination that starts in Galle on July 12 will be tough nonetheless.