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Maharaj looking forward to Lancashire stint

Maharaj looking forward to Lancashire stint

South African spinner excited for Lancashire spell

Keshav Maharaj, Lancashire’s new overseas signing and no stranger to life in the Red Rose county, has revealed how two names with strong links to Emirates Old Trafford played their part in his move.

South Africa’s Test Match spinner has signed on with Lancashire for the remaining four Specsavers County Championship games of the season, starting against Worcestershire at Southport this week.

The left-armer, 28, was recommended to the club’s hierarchy by current stand-in captain Dane Vilas, a domestic team-mate back home with the Durban-based Dolphins.

He also spoke to his Test Match captain Francois du Plessis to get his opinions, with Faf having played at Emirates Old Trafford in 2008 and 2009.

Maharaj has only just finished a tour of Sri Lanka, where he took 16 wickets in two Tests, both of which the visitors lost. He also took two wickets in as many ODIs.

In the first Test at Colombo, he even took 9-129 in the first innings, something which may bode well for notoriously spin-friendly conditions at Trafalgar Road.

“Dane contacted me just before I left for Sri Lanka and said ‘Would you be open to coming over?’ I was like ‘Yeah, definitely’,” said Maharaj, who played one season of Lancashire League cricket for Nelson in 2015.

“To be a part of a club of this magnitude is very special for me.

“We’ve played together at the Dolphins for the last two years. He was the one who facilitated everything for me. He put my name out there, and I’m very grateful.

“I spoke to Faf, who was a home boy here for quite a bit of time, and he told me it’s a beautiful place to play cricket.

“I also spoke to Hashim Amla about county cricket in general.”

Since debuting for South Africa on tour in Australia in late 2016, Maharaj, also a handy tail-end batsman, has taken 90 wickets in 22 Tests.

“I’ve wanted to play county cricket for a long time, ever since I made my debut for South Africa,” he continued.

“I’m just grateful the opportunity came up during this year’s tour.

“There’s four four-day games within the space of five weeks. It is condensed, but it can be a good thing for a cricketer to keep playing.

“When you get too long a break, it can work against you. You are able to keep that match fitness.

“I have played at Nelson in the Lancashire League, and the two years prior to that I was at Cuckfield in Sussex.

“Nelson’s more similar to conditions in terms of the weather because Sussex was quite warm!

“It’s a home away from home for me because I have a lot of friends in Nelson. I’ve built some strong relationships there, and it makes this move easier in that sense.

“The relationships I’ve built there, I regard them as family because we have become so close.”

Maharaj’s Test debut came 10 years to the week after making his first-class debut in November 2006. In all, he has taken 387 wickets in 105 first-class appearances.

“People always say that things happen quickly, and I can pay testament to that,” he said.

“Three years ago, I didn’t know where I was with my cricket. I was just playing domestic cricket back home.

“I always had aspirations to play for South Africa, and as a youngster you never think you’ll quite get there. But it’s good to have dreams.

“Since I got the call-up, I’ve never looked back.

“It’s weird because cricketers always talk about something clicking in your career. It’s beyond your control to a degree with how things happen.

“I felt it was a little bit of a case of that with me.

“I’ve always been a hard worker, someone who’s trained for prolonged hours. I’d like to think those long hours are coming to fruition now.”

He went on: “My first priority is to keep Lancashire in Division One however I go about it - runs, wickets or a blinding bit of fielding.

“Once that’s secured, hopefully we can push to finish as high up in the table as possible.

“I don’t like setting targets for wickets or runs. I just want to give my best at all times. Hopefully that’s enough to get some wins.”

This four-game stint will start a busy period of cricket for Maharaj, who will return home and almost immediately begin the domestic season with Vilas and the Dolphins before linking up with the Proteas.

He added: “If I hadn’t come over here, I would have probably taken a month off from cricket.

“All I’d have been doing was my basic gym work. But it’s nice to continue playing cricket. It allows me to start the season at home with some overs under my belt and some batting hours in the middle.

“Primarily, I’m just excited to be bowling in the Lancashire colours."

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