Centurion - A week ago, Kyle Abbott had no idea he would be playing for the Proteas and could not have imagined a better start to his international career.
“I haven’t had any sleep in the last two days so my mind is not really functioning,” Abbott said after taking seven wickets for 29 on debut in the third and final Test against Pakistan on Saturday.
“It’s the first time my hands aren’t sweating and I don’t have a knot in my stomach so, when that all passes, it might sink in slowly.”
VIDEO: SA v Pakistan, third Test day 2, highlights
The Dolphins seam bowler was rewarded for his 141 first-class wickets, from 37 matches, with a place as cover in the squad, after Morne Morkel withdrew from the third Test with a hamstring injury.
Gary Kirsten told him on Thursday, on the eve of the Test, that Jacques Kallis had pulled up in the nets, but Abbott did not heed the warning or take it seriously - until the coach called him at 16:00 that afternoon and told him he was playing.
“It’s been a special day and an incredible couple of days being with these guys,” Abbott said.
“Seeing how the number one team in the world goes about its business and experiencing the whole structure with the support staff is just an unbelievable experience.”
He said former cricketer Friedel de Wet once told him to “always give 100 percent and expect nothing in return” and he had done that this season.
“I’ve gone out there and left everything on the table and anything after that was out of my control.
“I thought the other seamers bowled maybe even better than I did today, but it was the pressure we created from both ends.
"Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are world class and it could have been anyone’s day out there today, but just luckily it was mine.”
Abbott took two for 16 in his first spell and five for 11 in his second to justify the selectors’ faith in him. His seven for 29 was the second best bowling figures for a South African on debut after Lance Klusener took eight for 64 in the second innings against India in Kolkata in 1996.
Coincidentally, it was Klusener to whom he paid tribute for his recent success and said the Dolphins’ coach had played a large role in his blossoming career.
“Lance has really helped me on the mental side of the game. He’s never tried to change my technique but more tried to work on a different mental approach to bowling - being slightly more aggressive and hitting the deck harder.
“Over the last couple of years, I felt I was just going through the motions and he certainly gave me a kick up the backside and the push that I needed.”
When Klusener phoned Abbott on Thursday evening, he informed his coach he was in Friday’s starting XI.
“He just said ‘okay’ and ‘cool’ and his only real words were ‘just keep it tidy’.
“If he was going to give me any last minute advice, it probably wouldn’t have sunk in at the time anyway.”
Abbott also said Proteas captain Graeme Smith had been fantastic and when the skipper came over to him at the end of every over, it was not to give him advice.
“Graeme kept coming up to me and asking me if I was done yet,” he laughed. “The word ‘no’ kept coming out of my mouth.
“He’s been unbelievable and I’ve been welcomed into the side with open arms. I’ve really felt like I’m part of the team and it’s only been three or four days. It’s awesome.”
He said Steyn had also been supportive, standing next to him for most of his spell.
“Dale just kept telling me to carry on doing what I’m doing and to be patient. I was trying to hit the right areas consistently and luckily it paid off.”