SA spinners at home in the sub-continent
The numbers tell the story. In the last 10 matches (including the two World Cup warm-up games), the highest score put up by a batting line-up against South Africa was 254.
In that game too — the fifth ODI against India at Centurion, South Africa had the opposition on the mat at 119 for eight before a one-man counter-attack by Yusuf Pathan (105) lent respectability to the total.
Despite Sunday's defeat to England, it was another emphatic statement by South Africa that they have the most lethal bowling combination. In a tournament where most teams have struggled to defend 300-plus totals, Graeme Smith's men have not allowed any team to bat out 50 overs.
England scored 296 versus Netherlands, 338 versus India, 327 versus Ireland before running into Smith's attack at the Chidambaram Stadium, and were bowled out for 171 in 45.4 overs. That the batsmen choked in the chase again, doesn't diminish the bowlers' effort.
While most teams, including India, are pondering over the their attack — spin or pace — the way South Africa's slow bowlers have performed on the sub-continent's sluggish tracks, shows that the Proteas have done their homework.
The bowling resembles the Sri Lanka attack of the 1990s, when batsmen dreaded the prospect of facing them on the sub-continent's slow wickets — one slower bowler after another cutting off the run-flow.
Imran Tahir, Robin Peterson, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and Johan Botha are playing a similar role for South Africa. The England batsmen will vouch for it after their experience on Sunday.
Tahir took four wickets and Peterson three to bowl out England to 171. Tahir and Co bowled out the West Indies for 222 (six wickets by the spinners), wrecked the Netherlands for 120 (six wickets by the spinners) and skittled out Zimbabwe for 152 (6 wickets by the spinners) and Australia for 217 (four wickets by the spinners, two were run out) in the warm-ups.
On a spin-friendly Chidambaram wicket, the South African spin attack was even more deadly. Peterson gave a dream start with a double-wicket strike in the first over. Tahir then produced another mesmerising display. Part timers du Plessis and Duminy played their part by maintaining the pressure.
For long termed as chokers, it's clear that if South Africa are to correct history, their spinners will have to play a big role.