By Graham Hardcastle
Keshav Maharaj is simply brilliant, says Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale.
The South Africa international left-arm spinner is back with the county after a brief trip home to attend a national awards dinner, a requirement for all centrally contracted players.
Maharaj was outstanding in a trio of Specsavers County Championship appearances prior to the start of the Vitality Blast.
He took 20 wickets and hit two fifties down the order, contributing to wins over Surrey at Scarborough and Somerset at Emerald Headingley.
In the win over pre-game leaders Somerset last month, he took 11 wickets, including seven in the first innings.
The 29-year-old, who says simplicity is the key to his game, will play in the next two Championship fixtures against Nottinghamshire at Scarborough from Sunday and then against Somerset at Taunton (September 10-13) prior to a Test series in India.
Last year, Maharaj claimed 17 wickets in three Championship appearances for Lancashire, including 11 in their famous September tie at Taunton, a game which the man himself described as “one of the most exciting I’ve ever played in”.
He also played in a heavy defeat against Yorkshire at Headingley.
“That’s where I saw him last year, when he played for Lancashire against us,” explained Gale.
“I thought, ‘We could really do with someone like that’. We had Dom Bess come in and do that kind of job for us earlier in the season and now Kesh.
“His runs have been a bonus, but he plays two roles with the ball.
“If the ball’s not spinning, he doesn’t go for many runs and can dry an end up and build pressure. If it is spinning, he only has to turn a couple to create doubt in a batsman’s mind. He beats both edges of the bat.
“Simplicity is definitely the key to his game. He admits that himself. He says there’s nothing complicated about his bowling. He just tries to bowl his stock ball as many times as possible.
“But he’s got some nice subtle variations – his pace and where he delivers it from on the crease, those kind of things. He is very, very consistent.”
Maharaj has taken 94 wickets in 25 Test matches, but he has only played four one-day internationals and is yet to debut in T20 cricket for the Proteas.
But he has been registered for the second half of the Vitality Blast group stage by Yorkshire and is hoping to prove his worth.
He debuted and went wicketless in the Blast defeat against Derbyshire at Headingley on Sunday, and prior to that game admitted: “I’ve been wanting to play T20 cricket all over the world. It’s any professional cricketer’s dream.
“When you showcase yourself in the various competitions, it gives you the opportunity to market yourself as a bowler.
“I’m also very keen to play for South Africa. That’s a big thing for me.”
Maharaj will play against Durham at Headingley on Friday (a televised 7pm start) prior to Sunday’s Championship meeting with Notts.
It is the first of four remaining games for Yorkshire, who are third in the table with four wins from 10. They are 38 points behind leaders Essex, so still have a slim title chance.
“We’re looking forward to it,” added Gale.
“We’ve been playing some good cricket in the Championship and are enjoying it. Hopefully that continues.”
In the Blast, Yorkshire are bottom of the North Group with one win from nine. They are likely to have to win their five remaining games to have any chance of a top-four finish for the quarter-finals.