TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WAS that a flash of Monday’s second Twenty20 we could see in Kagiso Rabada’s eyes in the 13th over in Dharamsala on Friday, just after Rohit Sharma had arched deliveries into the Neverland beyond the long-off and midwicket boundaries?
The ball that followed the second six ripped through Rohit’s guard untouched and with vicious haste. When it slapped into AB de Villiers’ gloves, Rabada was up close and personal with the batsman.
The flaming whiteness of the fast bowler’s feline eyes pricked hard at their sharpening corners. The smouldering blackness of his face commanded Rohit’s attention.
That secured, Rabada spat a few words at his opponent. They couldn’t be heard but they didn’t look pretty.
“Go bowl,” was the polite version of Rohit’s retort, which he punctuated with a dismissive wave of his hand. Then he seemed to implore Faf du Plessis to ask his young quick just who the hell he thought he was talking to one of India’s finest like that.
By then, Rohit had rocketed to 82 on his way to 106. India were soaring to 199/5. Perhaps Rohit had it right; just who did this kid think he was?
The answer came two hours later when JP Duminy tapped a single with none of the unstoppability he had used to smash seven sixes in his 68 not out and win a seemingly unwinnable match.
“In the last few days we spoke a lot about competing on this tour,” Duminy said. “We knew that no matter what was thrown at us we needed to have a counterpunch and we needed to make sure that we focused on the next ball.”
Duminy’s innings was as emphatic as Farhaan Behardien’s sterling contribution to an unbroken stand of 105 was unemphatic; yin and yang, light and shade, violence and velvet, Charlie Parker and Chet Baker.
So, who the hell is Rabada in all that? Miles Davis. Or part of a team who, on their day/night, play with hot passion and cold fury and get the job – whatever it is – done.
India hate it when that happens. They especially hate it when it happens in their own backyard because the Indian ego is as massive as it is fragile.
That much was apparent when even the coolest customer among them, MS Dhoni, failed to handle the gentle heat of the obvious question put to him afterwards: “What went wrong?”
“That’s why you should watch the game. You would have realised what went wrong.”
Oh dear. And that’s after just the first of a dozen matches the teams will contest on a tour that will seep into December.
The trick, of course, is for SA to do what they did again. They will get that chance in the second match of the series in Cuttack on Monday, when they could clinch the series.
No previous T20 internationals have been played in Cuttack but the evidence of the 17 one-day internationals hosted there since 1982 suggests nothing out of the Indian ordinary.
You know the tune: slow pitch, bandstand sized outfield, noisy crowd, egos on parade. All that jazz.