TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
SOUTH Africans would have cast an eye on the first one-day international against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Friday wondering how their team would fare without AB de Villiers.
Four overs into the match, they would have asked each other, “AB who?”
By then, the only name that mattered was that of Kagiso Rabada, who had become only the second player to take a hattrick on ODI debut. And there was much more.
Here’s Rabada in his own words about the fateful delivery: “I was thinking, ‘Bouncer? Normal length?’ Then I said to myself, ‘Yorker’. But I missed it by miles. So it was a bit of a fluke.”
A fluke? Imagine what he might do when things go according to plan. For now, Rabada is happy to do his bit: “It’s great to do well for your team. It put us in a good position and we won comfortably (by eight wickets).”
Rabada has had a heap of hype piled onto his young shoulders. On Friday, he lived up to it and then some with fast bowling that was as clinical and effective as it was mature.
In the eight overs he was allotted in an innings that rain reduced to 40 overs, Rabada took 6/16. Those are nothing short of the best figures by a debutant in ODI history, a saga that stretches back 44 years, 3663 matches, and 2231 other debutants.
That also meant Rabada usurped Makhaya Ntini’s 6/22 against Australia at Newlands in March, 2006 as the best performance by a South African in an ODI, and the 5/29 Allan Donald took against India in Kokata in November, 1991 – until Friday the finest figures by a South African in his first ODI.
Take a step back and feel for the Bangladeshis, who for the most part played with impeccable care and diligently straight – and were nonetheless blown away by a man who had way more talent than any amount of technique they might have thought they could put in his path.
On top of that, Rabada celebrated each of his successes as Shaun Pollock did more than how Dale Steyn does, and threw himself about the boundary like an eager, overgrown puppy anxious to pull his weight in the side.
Which is, of course, exactly what he is. Can he really be only 20 years old?
Rabada shared the new ball and was pacy and purposeful in a first over in which he quickly purred to 140 km/h and more and conceded a single and bowled a wide called on height.
He started his next over with three dot balls to Tamim Iqbal. The fourth delivery, a touch slower, curled around the left-hander’s outside edge and nailed his off-stump.
Litton Das walked in – and walked straight back after lifting a simple catch to midwicket.
Would Mahmudullah, playing his 120th ODI, have the experience to halt Rabada’s raid? The question was still being asked when an inswinger speared into the right-hander’s pads, hitting him bang in front of leg stump. Gone.
In a flash, most of Rabada was covered by a mass of teammates celebrating more giddily than him. His face bobbed above all that, smiling; not drowning. Even that was impressive considering his figures at that stage: 2-1-2-3.
Thus reduced to 17/3, Bangladesh spent the rest of their innings trying to remember which way was up. Shakib Al-Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim added 53 for the fifth wicket, but then the last five tumbled for 67 runs leaving SA a nominal target of 161.
Faf du Plessis and Rilee Rossouw took care of 99 of the required runs in their unbroken stand. Du Plessis’ grit earned him 63 not out while Rossouw’s dash took him to an unbeaten 45, and they had SA in the showers with 8.5 overs to spare.
They were good performances both. But only one name mattered. And it was neither of theirs.