Proteas: Finally, it’s Abbott’s time

2016-12-19 12:00
Kyle Abbott (Gallo)

Cape Town – It has required patience, and he’s shown that, true to character, in abundance.

At last, though, the scene is promisingly set for Kyle Abbott, as persevering and wholehearted a competitor as you could wish for, to properly establish himself as a Test regular for South Africa.

The former Durban favourite, now resident with the Warriors further down the coast, is going to have to either get injured or be unusually dud over the course of the Port Elizabeth and Cape Town Tests, you would imagine, if he is to be deprived of the opportunity to participate in a full series for the first time when Sri Lanka provide the opposition over three contests (the final one scheduled for Johannesburg) shortly.

Abbott, 29, has spent most of the time since his stellar debut against Pakistan at Centurion in February 2013 – match figures 9/68 – as a decidedly “in and out” feature of the Proteas’ Test plans.

That phenomenon should change for the better from Boxing Day onward; the least he deserves is the overdue chance to get into a settled groove in an entire series.

A combination of factors is aiding the likelihood that he becomes a more adhesive feature … not least that his statistics and recent form, frankly, demand it.

Despite having been restricted to only two Test caps each time in the last three series he has seen active service in – the four-strong one in India, four against England at home and three in Australia very recently – the bustling, probing seamer sports a sterling 34 scalps from his total of nine appearances at an average of 21.47 and economy rate barely north of two and a half runs to the over.

Those are not figures suggesting – or justifying -- a mere fringe factor in a national side, are they?

By way of comparison, Dale Steyn got to 34 wickets in his 10th Test, Morne Morkel in his 11th and Kagiso Rabada, similarly to Abbott, in his ninth.

Another still-active Proteas seam bowler, Vernon Philander, of course, stands head and shoulders above the others courtesy of his astonishing start to his own Test career, as he raced to 35 scalps in a mere five matches.

But helping to pave the way further for a solid run in the side by Abbott is the absence of two fellow-pacemen who have previously served as significant blockages to his presence in the XI, Steyn and Morkel.

The futures of both in the five-day landscape are inevitably shrouded in some doubt: 33-year-old icon Steyn is out until at least June 2017 following surgery to his bowling shoulder, whilst Morkel, also no youngster any more at 32, has not played an international of any kind for some six months as he wrestles persistent back trouble.

Abbott is a dream replacement for either, of course, and even if the lanky Morkel is back in contention reasonably soon, he will have his work cut out now to nudge any of Philander, Rabada or Abbott from the team.

Morkel’s best crack at a Test comeback may well only come if South Africa, at some point, decide it is worth departing from their “three quicks” policy and revert for the first time in a while to a four-pronged pace arsenal.

His back-of-a-length qualities, let’s not forget, do provide a healthy foil to the more consistently up-to-the-bat styles of, for instance, Philander and Abbott.

Yet normal standards may really be all Abbott needs – and doubtless he will strive for more than just that – to stay in the team for the duration of the Sri Lankan series and then onward into a similar three-Test challenge in New Zealand in late summer.

Conditions in the Land of the Long White Cloud should not differ a great deal from those experienced when the Proteas rousingly clinched the Aussie series in damp Hobart a few weeks ago, and it is history now that Abbott was in his element at Bellerive Oval where he earned the man-of-the-match mantle and nine wickets.

He is yet to sample any Test activity in New Zealand, but most observers would not be shy to forecast prosperity for a bowler of his nip-it-away, “always at ya” hallmarks in that country.

Before that, both St George’s Park and the Wanderers in the Sri Lankan series will also represent virgin Test territory for Abbott – he has previously tackled the Baggy Greens at Newlands – but even the first-named venue, with its slow and low characteristics, is unlikely to daunt him too much.

Bowling routinely in the correct areas tends to bring reward, even in Port Elizabeth, where wind direction can also bring quicker men into play as swiftly as it sometimes takes them out of it.

You won’t hear much whinging from Abbott, either, if the surface there goes “up and down” as deterioration takes effect towards the business end of the match.

Enjoy, encourage and appreciate, folks: we may well be entering Kyle John Abbott’s time as a Test bowler.

Or at very least a staple one …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


Read more on:    proteas  |  kyle abbott  |  cricket


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