Cape Town – He now shares a significant landmark with the
great Pakistani toe-crusher Waqar Younis ... and the temptation to keep Kagiso
Rabada charging in routinely for South Africa for the rest of the summer must
Only it must be spiritedly resisted.
It is absolutely vital that the Proteas box more cleverly
than that, in the interests of the national team and the outstanding young pace
The 20-year-old on Sunday went two scalps better than he had
done at the Wanderers only eight days earlier – when he bagged his maiden Test
five-for – as he claimed 7/112 in England’s first knock of the fourth Test at
Not only was it the mere third time a bowler has bagged that
many scalps in a single innings at Centurion (he joins team-mate Kyle Abbott
and Australia’s Mitchell Johnson in that particular club), but he also sits
proudly alongside the now 44-year-old Waqar as lone achievers of at least a
six-wicket haul in both the Test and one-day international landscape before
If many people thought South Africa might be sitting on
another strike-bowling gem, a la the Allan Donalds and Dale Steyns of the
post-isolation era, they probably feel that they actually know it now.
It was a dramatic “moving day” – the third – of the dead-rubber
encounter, with Rabada’s stunning analysis, a feat of brave endurance as much
as of some silky skill and discipline, the runaway prime individual hallmark
under stubbornly grey skies as the hosts edged encouragingly closer to breaking
their nine-Test streak without a win.
The smooth-striding KG, as he is nicknamed, ripped out as
many as six of England’s top seven in their dauntingly long batting line-up,
and then accounted for No 10 Stuart Broad for good measure.
Speaking of Broad, Rabada has now sneaked up to within one
wicket of the much more experienced visiting seamer’s series-leading tally of
17 -- and that from one Test fewer than the England man.
His achievement was even more praiseworthy for the fact that
the Proteas lost the services of Abbott’s nagging accuracy during the
104.2-over English innings with the revisit of a hamstring problem that bugged
him earlier in the series.
It meant the thinly-staffed SA attack had to cope for the
closing stages of the knock with only Rabada and Morne Morkel as pace options,
and the former looked particularly exhausted as the team finally took the steep
steps back up to the pavilion.
Remember that the pair put in yeoman work not just earlier
in the present series, but also in the gruelling prior trip to India – and in
more than just the Test format on that tour.
They must be running on virtually empty by now, yet both are
already pencilled in to feature in the five-match ODI series which quickly
follows completion of the five-dayers, and will presumably be intended to play
some Twenty20 stuff as well (home mini-series against both England and
Australia) before the ICC World Twenty20 back in the tough environment of India
Preparing for that event should be treated as obvious
priority after the England Test series is done and dusted: bilateral ODI series
a long way out from the next 50-overs World Cup seldom carry huge gravitas,
even if this one could be very appealing and a rapid way for South Africa to
try to avenge the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy surrender.
Rabada, particularly, should play as curtailed and
carefully-timed a role as possible in those ODIs, however obviously he shapes
as a potential headline act and bums-on-seats factor – perhaps even being
introduced as late as the last two games (Wanderers, February 12, and Newlands,
February 14) if the series is still alive by then.
There will be old-school, hard taskmasters arguing “pah,
he’s a young man ... just let him play” but without taking into account the
grim workloads at the highest level carried by pace bowlers these days, and the
often appallingly damaging consequences of burnout.
South Africa needs Kagiso Rabada for all really keynote
occasions across the three formats in the decade and more to come; deft
management of this massive asset, whose best may still be three or four years
up the road, is essential.
And it must start immediately, even if there is some
understandable gritting of teeth involved.
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing