Saeed Ajmal is one of the most feared spin bowlers in the world and Pakistan’s major threat in the T20 games against South Africa.
Former left-arm spinner Claude Henderson, SuperSport commentator and consultant for Cricket SA, analyses Saeed’s skill and ponders the upcoming showdown between him and batsman Faf du Plessis.
1. Variety show
In a test series against England in 2012, the batsmen struggled to read his different bowling styles.
He camouflages them so well his opponents don’t know whether they’re defending against an off-spinner, doosra or teesra.
His traditional off-spinner turns into the right-handed batsman’s middle stump, and his doosra turns away from the right-hander, but it’s difficult to read that delivery from his hand.
2. Late bloomer
Saeed, who only made his international debut at the age of 30, has clocked up an impressive record, playing in 112 first-class matches.
He has been the number one ranked bowler in the world in T20 cricket since November 2011; in test cricket, he’s currently number three.
He was also the Pakistan bowler quickest to the milestone of 100 wickets in test cricket.
3. Armed and dangerous
Saeed creates a lot of over-spin on his deliveries, with resultant bounce that confounds many a batsman.
The English batsmen attempted to neutralise Saeed by using the sweep shot.
They failed miserably as they top-edged the deliveries, which offered catches to the inner ring.
Saeed uses the arm ball that shoots straight through, almost like Shane Warne’s “flipper”.
His arm ball is called a “teesra” or back-spinner. Saeed also uses a top-spinner, which bounces even higher than his teesra.
4. Speed king
Saeed can turn the ball a proverbial mile, and also uses a low trajectory.
He bowls relatively briskly for an off-spinner.
That complicates matters for batsmen, as they can’t use their feet successfully to move down the track and hit over the top for boundaries.
Consequently, Saeed can keep a batsman rooted to his crease, and so build pressure over an extended period.
5. Power pause
He uses a delayed action at the point of delivery: he stops at the last moment before bowling to survey his opponent.
This forces a batsman who had intended to move down the crease (to deposit the ball over the inner ring) to reconsider.
Saeed is brilliant at reading batsmen’s minds; he knows instinctively what they’re going to do, which is how he’s captured 122 wickets in 23 tests. In this way, he can build pressure.
Faf vs Saeed, an excellent duel
Right-handed batsman Faf du Plessis scored two centuries and two half-centuries in his first four tests for South Africa.
It will be a 50/50 battle between Faf and Saeed.
Faf is a very astute player against spinners and he has improved his skills by playing the county circuit for Lancashire.
He uses his feet well against spinners, and can use his wrists to flick the ball through the inner ring.
He is also very quick between the wickets and can rotate the strike to prevent Saeed from building pressure.
South Africa analysed the world-class off-spinner Graeme Swann in 2012 by meticulously researching and fine-tuning a battle plan to upset him.
But they might have their work cut out for them to overcome Saeed’s variety of deliveries.
Faf du Plessis and Saeed Ajmal will be key players for the Proteas and Pakistan respectively in the first of two T20 international matches starting at Kingsmead in Durban on Friday, 1 March at 6pm.
- Fanie Heyns