Rabada proves SA’s superiority. Again

Sunday Times

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

SO, all the gumph that Bangladesh would run SA close – even beat them – in the shorter formats has been exposed for the nonsense it always was. Whatever next? AB de Villiers is a weekend willow warrior? Kagiso Rabada can’t bowl for toffee?

The centre of this contextless tour rings dull with nothingness, even more so now that De Villiers has been taken out of the equation by a ban for a slow over-rate and looming fatherhood. Players of his genius should and do always draw a crowd, even when they are ranged against the Naked Emperors’ XI.

And what point would be made by unleashing Rabada on the Bangladeshis again in the second one-day international in Dhaka on Sunday? That would be like the Romans sending the lions back into the colosseum to have another chomp on already dead christians.

“I didn’t dream of this; I didn’t think of this at all,” Rabada said after taking 6/16 – the best figures by an ODI debutant, and a haul that included a hattrick – on Friday.

He spoke with the bewilderment of the 20-year-old he is, although he had the good sense to add that he would “make sure I live a life an athlete is supposed to live … to a certain extent”.

But the wisest words came from Hashim Amla. As he sat down behind the microphones with Rabada, Amla said, “I’m just an add-on in this interview.”

We would be proud to say you didn’t read it here if it wasn’t bleeding obvious: SA are a better team than Bangladesh whatever the format and regardless of the conditions.

They’ve proved it three times now. If they don’t do so again today it will be because they are bored with the excuse for a challenge presented by the home side.

Dale Steyn got himself into trouble for saying something similar before the tour, and rightly so – decorum, young man, not to mention knowing where confidence ends and arrogance begins.

But those who are not contractually bound to toe cricket’s company line should have the balls to out a naked emperor when they see one, nevermind 11 of them impersonating an international cricket team.

Yes, Bangladesh reached the World Cup quarter-finals as recently as March. Yes, they have since beaten Pakistan and India in one-day series. No, they are not much good against a side like SA.

Sub-continental teams rely on subtlety. When they run into opponents who subscribe to the big bang theory of cricket, how to play, they come second; especially now that no conditions are foreign and opponents are teammates for several weeks every year. Sometimes not – the World Cup hiding India handed SA in February is exhibit A – but not often.

Against the leading exponents of emphatic cricket, SA and Australia, Bangladesh have won two of 54 matches across all formats. They have played 153 games against their neighbours and won 14. So, Bangladesh are almost three times more successful against India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka than they are against SA and Australia.

That trend is unlikely to be bucked on Sunday.

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