TELFORD VICE, Centurion
KAGISO Rabada would be forgiven for wondering why the press are picking on him. He is, after all, standing up to the challenge of playing test cricket just 19 matches into his first-class career.
He proved that by taking 5/78 in England’s first innings in the third test at the Wanderers last week.
But the match won’t be remembered for Rabada’s rasping, penetrative bowling.
Instead, SA’s dismissal for 83 in their second innings and England’s victory in three days will be uppermost when the story of the series – which consequently belongs to the visitors – is written.
The loss was SA’s fifth in their last nine tests, of which they haven’t won any. And, just to rub it in, SA and England will meet in the fourth and, mercifully, last test of the rubber in Centurion on Friday.
Rabada was asked to make sense of all that on Tuesday.
“It hasn’t been a great two months for us, coming from India (where SA lost 0-3) and also here against the English,” Rabada said.
“We are bonding together as a team. I think that’s the best thing we can do right now. We are trying to get ourselves in a good space. We’re very positive at the moment.
“There’s always going to be ups and downs in cricket and also in life. The good times will come and we will look back on these times and say, ‘Look where we were and look where we are now’.
“It happens to everyone and unfortunately right now it is happening to us and you have to stay together as a team.”
Rabada is not alone – most of SA’s attack have performed with credit against England. It’s the batsmen who have let SA down. Shouldn’t they be the ones answering questions about performance?
“It’s not like the batsmen are trying to get out,” Rabada said. “You are playing for your country, you have to do your best. I know for a fact every guy is trying to do their best. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way. That’s life, that’s cricket.
“No-one is trying to lose their wickets. Everyone is fighting out there, that’s the bottom line.”
Actually, the bottom line is England 2, SA 0. If SA are victorious in a match England could be less than desperate to win in Centurion, that will change.
But not nearly by enough to make South Africans stop wondering why – besides retirements and injuries – things have gone so wrong so quickly for the team that, until a few months ago, was the best in the game.