Simon Harmer knows that he will be metaphorically waiting by the phone to get a call for most of the Proteas’ tour to Australia, but the prolific off-spinner is geared to make sure he takes his opportunity whenever it comes.
With South Africa’s three Tests in Australia being played in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, the third and final Test, at New Years, looks Harmer’s best bet of playing alongside left-armer Keshav Maharaj, who is acknowledged as the Proteas’ first-choice spinner.
“I’m under no illusions about the role I will play, especially since the first Test is at the Gabba, which is meant to be the quickest pitch in the southern hemisphere,” Harmer said.
“But I need to make sure I’m the next taxi on the rank, and then make sure I take whatever opportunity I get, even if they are few and far between.
“The management have been very transparent about Kesh justifiably being number one. He has great control and I’ve really enjoyed bowling with him because we’re able to exert pressure from both ends.
“Being on tour also provides me with an opportunity to work on my game, batting and bowling, with South Africa’s best coaches. It’s an opportunity to reset, which you don’t always get,” Harmer said.
Number of wickets
While the number of wickets Harmer takes per match is generally one more than Maharaj at Test and first-class level, and the offie is a year older than the slow left-armer, he says he is “more the student than the teacher”, respecting Maharaj’s experience of playing 45 Tests compared to his eight.
Harmer has travelled to Australia with another rich haul of domestic wickets behind him. In his last match, he took 14 wickets at the Wanderers to bowl the Northerns Titans to a 10-wicket win over the Central Gauteng Lions. It was the best ever haul by a spinner at the famous ground, and the second-best figures overall, 14-151 compared to Kagiso Rabada’s 14-105 for the Lions against the KZN Dolphins in 2014/15.
Again, Harmer just pipped Maharaj by one, the Dolphins man having the second-best figures for a spinner at the Wanderers with 13-174 against the Lions in 2020/21.
“I’ll take a lot of confidence out of that game at the Wanderers, which traditionally doesn’t turn. Playing three four-day matches has been invaluable in terms of my skillsets.
“The Australian pitches do spin and against an off-spinner, the batsmen generally look to sweep, but the extra bounce can take that away from them.
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“If Mitchell Starc and Marco Jansen [both left-arm pacemen] play then there will also definitely be footmarks. So it’s about being accurate, the basics are always my biggest asset.
“Playing in a New Years Test anywhere in the world is always exciting, I made my debut at Newlands in January 2015. If I am going to get an opportunity then it’s likely to be in Sydney, where it turns the most.
“I will have almost a month to prepare for that and I just have to make sure I don’t overthink things, I must just stick to the basics,” Harmer said.
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