Cricket 18.3.2017 07:57 am

Keshav Maharaj grows into match-winner as Proteas race to win

Keshav Maharaj established himself as a new hero for the Proteas. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP.

Keshav Maharaj established himself as a new hero for the Proteas. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP.

The left-arm spinner takes a brilliant six-wicket haul as South Africa unexpectedly beat NZ within three days in the second Test.

If the second Test between the Proteas and New Zealand in Wellington has illustrated anything, it’s that South Africa’s future is exciting.

After Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock showed they’re willing to become the batting’s backbone on day two, Keshav Maharaj on Saturday left no doubt as to his status as the Proteas No 1 Test spinner.

The left-arm tweaker, who took his maiden five-wicket haul in the previous Test, improved on that with career-best figures of 6/40 as he ripped New Zealand to shreds.

The hosts were bowled out for 171 in their second innings, leaving the Proteas with a target of 81.

With Hashim Amla (38*) at the helm, they achieved that with 8 wickets in hand.

Given how slow the Test in Dunedin went, winning within three days is a remarkable achievement for South Africa.

But most of the plaudits deservedly went to Maharaj.

He controlled his spell magnificently and capitalised superbly on the pressure created by the quicker men.

The 27-year-old spinner was gifted a few of his wickets, like Jimmy Neesham dancing down the track to be brilliantly caught one-handed by Faf du Plessis.

Or Tim Southee showing no restraint to be caught in at long-off.

Yet there was also moments where Maharaj truly showed class.

His delivery to dismiss Colin de Grandhomme – a ball pitched on leg-stump that turned and hit off – was an absolute gem and he also smartly had Jeet Raval (80), New Zealand’s top-scorer, stumped with loopy drifter wide of the crease.

It was no less than Maharaj deserved as he became the first South African spinner to take six wickets in a Test innings since his mentor Paul Harris did so against Australia in Cape Town eight years ago.

That said, it was also pleasing to see the old guard pull their weight too.

Morne Morkel was aggressive in taking 3/50 and struck the vital blows.

He took the important wicket of captain Kane Williamson with a beautiful, angled delivery that moved away at the last minute.

Williamson was given not out but South Africa were adamant of a review.

The giant fast bowler also had debutant Neil Broom (20) caught behind with a similar ball.

Granted an extra half hour to bat, the Proteas raced to their target.

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