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Fiery Shamsi insists spluttering Proteas still mentally up for Aussie fight as Nortje pulls out

Tabraiz Shamsi.

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  • Proteas spinner Tabraiz Shamsi insists he and his team-mates are still in the right frame of mind to mount an unlikely come-from-behind ODI series win against the Australians.
  • But South Africa’s mission in that regard has been complicated by Anrich Nortje’s back injury, which will see him sit out the third ODI and go for scans. 
  • Shamsi made an encouraging return to form on Saturday, underpinned by some fire in his demeanour and jousting with Marnus Labuschagne, an example his teammates can follow, too.
  • For more sports news, go to the News24 Sport front page.

Given that he was the only member of the Proteas attack to front up to a rampant Australian batting order in Saturday’s galling 123-run defeat in the 2nd ODI in Bloemfontein, handing Tabraiz Shamsi media duties in the aftermath felt distinctly unfair.

Yet the mercurial left-arm wrist-spinner did so with the courtesy and conviction he showed with the ball – 4/61 in a total of 392/8 is downright superb – and emphatically stated that the struggling South African team remains in the right frame of mind to salvage a five-match series they now trail 0-2.

That objective, however, has been complicated by the news that ace fast bowler Anrich Nortje will, at the very least, miss Tuesday’s 3rd ODI in Potchefstroom.

He only completed five overs at the weekend – bleeding 58 runs in the process – before leaving the field complaining of lower back spasms.

Nortje will remain in Johannesburg for scans.

His struggles were emblematic of the Proteas’ woes as, for the fifth consecutive match, despite some differing personnel, their bowling was way below par as it lacked incisiveness, discipline and intelligence, putting a rusty but undeniably wasteful batting line-up under inexorable pressure.

“Of course, we’re going to have to [take it on the chin] because we aren’t producing the results,” said Shamsi.

“We’re going to have to be accountable for what we’re producing. But having said that, we have been working really hard. These results aren’t stemming from a lack of work ethic.

“The people doing their work behind the scenes, are doing it. We’ve got to live with this. In the previous two home series, we beat the Aussies 5-0 and 3-0. The shoe’s now on the other foot and we’re going to have to make sure now that we come out firing for the last three matches.

“I know everyone is disappointed, none more so than us. But I can assure all, the guys are mentally there. We’re here to win this series.”

READ | Hapless Proteas malfunction with bat and ball again as second-string Aussies gallop to win

By extension, Shamsi admitted that South Africa’s execution was a major handicap yet also pointed out that conditions – particularly the surface – differed markedly from the opening encounter on Thursday, which was played on a slow pitch with variable bounce.

“Well look, we tried everything that we could,” he said.

“It was a tough day out for the bowlers. We did all our thorough planning and, honestly, it was just an execution problem. The plans are in place. We’ll have to work harder and hit our straps.”

In addition to invariably spraying deliveries all over the wicket, South Africa’s body language has been lacking in terms of intensity, which is why Shamsi’s rediscovered verve could become useful.

He engaged in some “respectful” and lively jousting with Aussie batting hero Marnus Labuschagne and clearly also had the ability to back it up with strikes.

Some of his teammates can definitely take some pointers.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been ‘away’ over the past few months,” said Shamsi.

“It was a new experience for me, I never really experienced such a [pronounced] dip in my career like I did this year. But I did a lot of thinking and said to myself that there’s never been a cricketer, regardless of pedigree, who hasn’t had a slump.

“It was my moment to ride out the tough times. With Marnus, it was all respectful and fun. The game needs that. I also gets me charged up because you’re playing for your country.

“You’ll probably see that a bit more from me again – it was missing from my game. I want to play on my terms again a bit.”

The rest of the Proteas need to find a similar voice.

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