Cape Town – It
was pretty understandable to anticipate that The Oval might have turned out to
be Kagiso Rabada’s “angry” Test.
he had controversially been ruled out of the prior, second contest against
England at Trent Bridge for a disciplinary indiscretion related to “inappropriate
language” during game one at Lord’s (no lack of observers felt the planet had
greater issues to attend to, if you like).
might say Rabada simmered rather than sizzled, both statistically and in broad
demeanour, in his comeback in the third Test, and he’s found himself in the
slightly peculiar, unexpected position of being a participant in two defeats
yet absentee from the lone, thumping SA triumph at Nottingham.
sums up his involvement, as just Old Trafford remains for the Proteas to
salvage some pride with a levelling win, in the series combat so far: credible,
rather than earth-shattering.
And so lofty
are Rabada’s normal standards, even at the still tender age of 22, that you
might dare to venture - by whisper - he has under-delivered in his maiden
exposure to an England-hosted Test series thus far.
along the line in a keynote series, you almost automatically expect “KG” to
have a field day - or even two or three - in the wickets column.
example, he did in the prior series between the two countries, on our own soil
two summers back, grabbing a five-for at the Wanderers and then stunning 13
scalps (including career-best innings haul to this day of 7/112) at Centurion.
current series, his best single-innings return has been 3/50 at Lord’s and his
total catch stands at 10 wickets at 31.40. That’s no disgrace at all; neither
does it yet ooze “wow” factor.
rides fifth on the series averages among Proteas bowlers; this enviable athlete
is more accustomed to featuring higher than that.
told, Rabada and Chris Morris were the most glaring culprits, too, in the
pivotal early stages of the Test at The Oval, where England preyed on
unacceptable levels of inaccuracy to amass a first-knock total above 350 –
perhaps some 100 runs or so above where they should have ended, given
conditions at the time.
traditionally ultra-disciplined, routinely pressure-building Vernon Philander
stripped from the attack through illness for generous portions of that key
period, only Morne Morkel of the seamers bowled consistently in the right areas
to largely thwart England from “getting away” too much.
guiltier than Rabada of leaking boundaries too easily and letting his radar go
awry, but he is also the less established of the two at Test level (Rabada has
19 caps, and 81 wickets at an impressive 24.64) and the more senior figure of
the pair certainly came up short of customary standards.
By saying at
the after-match press conference that he saw much more of the “KG I know” at
times during England’s second innings, skipper Faf du Plessis was indirectly
acknowledging Rabada’s shortcomings on days one and two.
As you would
more or less expect, the skilful paceman has produced several sublime
deliveries during the series thus far – the yorker to castle newcomer Dawid
Malan at The Oval is difficult to forget – but more pronounced spells of
captivating majesty have tended to elude him.
Rabada is operating at slightly less than the levels anticipated of him,
thoughts almost inevitably turn to the sometimes dangerously high workload he
has carried at all levels of the game for at least the last two years.
He is an
understandable poster-figure in a marketing context for Cricket South Africa,
and there was a period where he probably participated in a bit too much of the
slightly less meaningful activity, in a sense, by the national side.
But it is
not as though he ought to be too footsore on the current tour, even if he is
among several SA squad members who have been in England for almost three months
wisely kept out of the three-match T20 series altogether, giving him a respite
of two weeks or more in mid-tour, and then got some feet-up time again for
another fortnight-plus considering his banning from the Trent Bridge Test.
So Rabada truly
“stepping up” in intensity and consistency for what will be a first personal
experience of Old Trafford at any international level from Friday, would beef
the SA cause enormously.
there’s not been too much wrong with Rabada’s general performance across two
Test matches in this series. But just imagine if he gets that wee bit more
right, instead, in the decisive, closing fixture.
It could be
a critical ticket to SA – some amidst their ranks potentially prone to
homesickness now? -- bouncing back to 2-2, a considerably better outcome than series
second-fiddle would be …
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