Abbott stakes WACA Test claim

2016-10-09 20:02
Kyle Abbott (AP)

Cape Town – Kyle Abbott stuck up his hand on Sunday to be the “fourth element” if South Africa opt to go all-pace in the first Test against Australia at the WACA from November 3.

The legendary Perth venue, with its healthy carry, is one of relatively few left in the world where teams may be strongly inclined to sacrifice a spinner in favour of all-out bombardment in the five-day game.

Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander seem pretty assured of the three most obvious pace berths for the first encounter in the three-Test series, assuming that the Proteas don’t deviate from their norm in most places of also including a spinner in the XI.

But what if conditions look particularly inviting for a beefier seam department?

That is where the 29-year-old Abbott, who was in the extended squad for the recent victorious home Test series against New Zealand but didn’t get a game, comes into the equation.

His claims to be part of a possible quartet of fast bowlers look particularly solid because the Proteas are currently short of several other candidates through injury: Chris Morris (knee) is definitely ruled out of the Test series, left-armer Wayne Parnell is a long shot to be fit in time due to a rib problem, and Morne Morkel (back) has not played any cricket yet since late July so must remain shrouded in substantial doubt.

Both Steyn and Rabada were sensibly rested from the dead-rubber fourth one-day international against the Aussies at St George’s Park on Sunday – likewise first-choice spinner Imran Tahir – leaving SA with an attack looking just about as “second-string” as the visitors’ one has throughout the combat thus far.

Yet pleasingly, the Proteas still romped to another comfortable triumph by six wickets, leaving the Australians staring a humiliating, historic bilateral whitewash in the face when the series ends at Newlands on Wednesday.

The top-ranked Aussies last suffered such protracted ODI angst back in 2012, when thumped 4-0 by hosts England (one washout) in a NatWest Series.

Abbott, later to be named player of the match, started the rot by bowling both dangerous Aussie opening batsmen, Aaron Finch and David Warner, in the first and third over of the match respectively, and the tourists ended up posting only 167 – the fourth lowest ODI total at the venue batting first.

He also returned later to rip out Mitchell Marsh and Adam Zampa on the slightly challenging, two-paced surface, for a haul of 4/40 – his best against a top-tier nation and second-best overall after he registered 4/21 against Ireland in Canberra at the 2015 World Cup.

The one thing you always get from Abbott, even if he is a lively seamer more than he is express pace, is a bustling, resourceful and professional shift.

That was very much the case again on Sunday, at a ground where he is developing a happy knack of getting among the wickets in the 50-overs game: he had also knocked over all of England’s top three (Jason Roy, Alex Hales and Joe Root) in his last ODI there last season.

Apart from his 27 ODIs, Abbott has also played seven previous Tests for the Proteas, and boasts a promising 21 wickets at 25.57.

The Proteas were seldom too troubled in the undemanding PE run chase, as their increasingly commanding acting captain Faf du Plessis again led from the front with a patient 69 off 87 deliveries.

But apart from Abbott making a useful little statement about his Test aspirations shortly, the successful introduction for the first time in the series of Tabraiz Shamsi, the left-arm chinaman specialist, also got some tongues wagging about his own prospects of enhancing the five-day cause Down Under next month.

He had two pretty illuminating prior, debut ODIs during the Caribbean triangular back in June, and on Sunday bagged his own best figures of 3/36 in a full 10 overs.

All of them were leg before wicket dismissals, including the prize scalp of Aussie skipper Steve Smith, and seemed to only confirm the vulnerability of many of that country’s batsmen, across the formats, to quality spin.

Dual former SA and Australia international Kepler Wessels was impressed enough during SuperSport commentary to suggest that Shamsi could also give the Proteas an intriguing new attacking dynamic during the looming Test series, which also includes clashes in Hobart and Adelaide.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  kyle abbott  |  cricket

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