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
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
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
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.
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