Cape Town – South Africa’s future in limited-overs international cricket, especially when it comes to pace and seam bowling, looks increasingly formidable.
Three of their youngest or least experienced fast or medium-fast bowlers – Kagiso Rabada, Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo -- were quite sublime on Saturday as the Proteas produced a snarling performance in the field to trample New Zealand by 159 runs in the key third ODI at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.
Strike bowler Rabada, returning notably fresh and invigorated after sitting out the only defeat thus far in Christchurch with a minor knee problem, bristled with aggression and sometimes searing speed.
“KG” clearly relished the luxury of a generous catching cordon behind the wicket on a pitch offering healthy carry as he returned figures of two for 39 in a full 10-over quota; there was little “bowling within himself” here as the Black Caps were routed for 112 under lights in 32.2 testosterone-driven overs.
Remember that Rabada is still only 21 so the obvious, vast potential for further improvement will make him the kind of customer few batsmen will relish facing when he actually reaches his prime.
At least from a caps perspective, he is already something of a stalwart, bearing in mind his now 32 appearances in the format since July 2015.
But if Rabada has infinite scope for upward curves yet in developmental terms, you might say there is even more pronounced opportunity for the likes of Pretorius and Phehlukwayo to grow into the international fold.
The former may be 27, but this was just his seventh ODI, and with each appearance in the green kit he is starting to look more and more at ease – both is temperamental and skills capacities -- at this level.
Pretorius boasted the striking analysis of 5.2-1-5-3 in Wellington, and currently sports 12 scalps in the format at an average of 17 and economy rate of less than four and a half runs to the over.
Meanwhile Phehlukwayo, who is a few days short of his 21st birthday, also gave an exemplary demonstration of run-strangulation and resourcefulness with the ball, conceding a miserly single boundary in his own five overs as he picked up two for 12 – including the prized wicket of Black Caps captain Kane Williamson.
Those all represent deeply gratifying outings from a trio of “kids” who will be a handful of further games wiser by the time the Proteas hit the ICC Champions Trophy in the UK in June.
The earlier South African innings was marked by a praiseworthy sting in the tail from a very much in-the-groove AB de Villiers and bowling all-rounder Wayne Parnell, after the Proteas had receded at different times to 165 for five and then 180 for six.
Prospects of an iffy total well inside the 250-mark beckoned, but the seventh-wicket pair consolidated intelligently and then put down the hammer to post a reviving 84 runs in not much more than 10 overs.
De Villiers played many of his boundary-seeking strokes with as much authority and timing as has ever been witnessed from him in his illustrious career, en route to 85, and in the process became the fastest batsman by a gaping 23 innings (beating off Sourav Ganguly) to go to the 9,000-run mark in ODIs.
By taking a 2-1 lead in such ruthless fashion, the Proteas need just one more triumph (either Wednesday in Hamilton or Saturday in Auckland) to secure the series; they now command a significant psychological edge.
South Africa have also, remember, not suffered successive defeats in ODIs since the home series against England just over a year ago – those were the first two contests at Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth, and even then they bounced back to steal the honours 3-2.
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