The thing with Keshav Maharaj is that he doesn't give much away. In any situation. His main aim on the field is dry up an end and wait for wickets; his main one off it is to give as little away as possible, particularly about the strategies behind his performances.
"It's the good plans set up between Claude Henderson (spin-bowling coach) and Prasanna Agoram (video analyst). Prasanna is a bit of a genius when it comes to seeing things after spending time behind the computer and Hendo's vision and knowledge in the game is some of the best I've worked with," Maharaj said. "I've never had a spin-bowling coach before and it's aided my game since I debuted in Perth."
Since that match in November 2016, Maharaj has become the fastest South African spinner to 50 wickets since readmission (in 12 Tests) and the joint second-fastest in the country's history. While he is no great turner of the ball, persistence, drift and composure have all contributed to his success so far, which, to date, sees him sit third on the wicket-takers' list this series.
Maharaj has 16 scalps, one more than his counterpart Nathan Lyon and at a significantly better average: Maharaj's wickets have come at 32.81, Lyon's at 40.60. Importantly, Maharaj has taken out some big names in this series, including Steven Smith twice in four innings and Shaun Marsh three times in seven innings. Both have reputations of being good players of spin and both have been kept fairly quiet, which has been crucial to South Africa's position in the series so far.
While Maharaj won't go into detail about how he has out-thought them, his overall approach is to wait for the batsmen to feel frustrated by the quicks and target him. "The reasons why they attacked (me) is that our fast bowlers kept it quite tight. It almost felt like against the spin if you're just looking to survive then you'll probably get out," Maharaj said. "It's an opportunity to get wickets. One could go to hand or they could run past one."
And with Maharaj resolutely putting balls in good areas and drawing batsmen forward, inevitably that's what happens. Australia's bowling coach David Saker said as much after day two when he acknowledged that one of the reasons his line-up has been unable to compete with South Africa's is because, "their spinner is bowling extremely well as well." The other two reasons according to Saker were Vernon Philander, "who is as accurate a bowler as there is in the world," and Kagiso Rabada, "the best strike bowler in the world."
Morne Morkel didn't get a mention from Saker, probably because his contribution in this match has been minimal, and it is likely to stay that way. Morkel left the field before lunch with a side strain - the same injury that sidelined him for 10 weeks late last year - and though he returned, South Africa cannot say with certainty whether he will bowl again in the match. He will receive treatment overnight and will try to turn his arm over a final few times for nostalgia's sake before he retires but chances are South Africa's attack will find a way without him.
That likely means a heavy workload for Maharaj, something he has welcomed in the past and will accept again on day four (and five if needed), especially because the pitch is expected to break up and there is already significant turn, as Lyon showed on day three.
While Maharaj should be licking is lips, his concern is that "its turning and bouncing too much to find the edge," which is what Lyon encountered against Hashim Amla. One delivery spun straight off the pitch down the leg side and Amla could not get bat on it for the sweep; three balls later Lyon beat Elgar's outside edge with one that turned past him.
Maharaj continues to admire Lyon from afar and is hopeful of having a mini spinners' conference, as they did in Adelaide 18 months ago. "He is a world-class bowler. To get 300 wickets in non-sub[continental] conditions in 70-odd matches is spectacular," Maharaj said. "Hopefully we can have a chat. We had a chat in Adelaide. His control is one thing he is really good at. He's very consistent, doesn't bowl too many bad balls, and it's showing in his performances throughout his career."
The same could well be said of Maharaj, but in typically humble fashion he deflects the credit and distributes it among all his team-mates. "Wherever we play we try to dry things up and in doing so it will bring wickets, whether it be from my end or the other end. Test cricket is about partnerships and that's how we work in our bowling unit."
But as South Africa go in search of their first home series win against Australia since readmission, the spotlight may shift to one man, and that man may be Maharaj. He has slipped under the radar for most of the home summer but as it ends, it could be Maharaj's time to shine.