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Ken Borland

Harmer’s return saluted by those for whom the main thing is winning

Posted on February 23, 2022 by Ken

If the main thing is winning then Proteas fans should be delighted to see Simon Harmer back in the Test squad for the tour to New Zealand. Paul Harris, South Africa’s leading spinner when they were last ranked No.1 in the longest format, is certainly very happy to see the Essex off-spinner back in the national team’s ranks.

The returns of Harmer and paceman Lutho Sipamla are the two changes to the squad that did such fine duty against India, with George Linde unavailable due to his wedding and Sisanda Magala giving way to his Central Gauteng Lions team-mate.

The 32-year-old Harmer has played five Tests, the last of which was against India in Nagpur in November 2015. The following year he signed a Kolpak deal with Essex and in the last five years has been the most prolific wicket-taker in first-class cricket anywhere in the world – with 443 wickets at an average of just 22.77. Playing for Northerns, he is the second-highest wicket-taker in the four-day competition behind Duanne Olivier (28), with 27 at 21.40.

“It’s amazing what Harmer has achieved and he deserves his recall,” Harris told The Citizen on Wednesday. “He’ll obviously be coming in with huge confidence because he has taken so many wickets.

“England would have selected him ages ago if they could have. But we might play two spinners and Simon balances it nicely – an offie joining a left-armer.

“He’ll be a great back-up. Keshav Maharaj is our main spinner, but to have Harmer pushing him, putting pressure on him, will be good.

“It’s a great selection and, as much as we enjoy criticising the selectors, we have to give them credit here. It’s a really good squad,” Harris said.

The Proteas leave for New Zealand next week and, due to Covid fears, the second Test has been moved from Wellington to Christchurch, where the first Test from February 17 will be played.

Hagley Oval was the venue where earlier this month the Black Caps snuffed out, via an innings victory, Bangladesh’s hopes of an historic series win in New Zealand following their shock victory at Mount Maunganui.

“We’ve seen lately that there have generally been good pitches there,” Harris said. “There will be a bit in it for the seamers, so it would have been nice to have Anrich Nortje fit.

“But sometimes they can be a bit slow and then the spinners come into it. So you just need to hang in there, hit the deck hard and there may be a bit of turn later. It should be a cracking series!” Harris added.

Proteas Test squad vs New Zealand – Dean Elgar (captain), Sarel Erwee, Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma (vice-captain), Kyle Verreynne, Ryan Rickelton, Marco Jansen, Wiaan Mulder, Keshav Maharaj, Simon Harmer, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Glenton Stuurman, Lutho Sipamla.

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