TELFORD VICE, Centurion
CLEARLY, Kagiso Rabada didn’t get the memo – the one about not trying too hard in a game that doesn’t matter much. Instead, Rabada tried harder than ever at Centurion on Sunday and was rewarded with his best figures yet in a career that will grow to many more than his six tests.
Almost as certain is that he will improve on the 7/112 he took for SA on the third day of the fourth test against England.
Or, as Rabada himself said, “I don’t feel I’ve arrived yet; there’s still lots of work to be done.”
Still, those are the best figures by a South African in a test innings against England since Hugh Tayfield took 9/113 at the Wanderers in February 1957.
Only 24 times in SA’s 400 tests has a bowler taken seven or more wickets in an innings, and just 19 of SA’s 326 test players have done so.
Rabada was as close as kids should be allowed to venture to rampant in the grown-up’s world of test cricket, and never more so than when he removed Joe Root, James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow – with an away swinger, a bouncer and a cutter – for no runs in nine deliveries.
“Once I got Root out it was a big relief,” Rabada said. “The day before I was a bit all over the place.”
At an age when others are trying to land a proper job and trying not to drink too much (or not trying), Rabada is excelling on cricket’s greatest stage. What a feeling …
“I’m really doing what I wanted to do – it’s amazing.”
As a contest, the match became irrelevant when England clinched the series at the Wanderers last weekend. So the fourth test, by any measure of modernity, should never have been played.
But try telling that to test cricket’s oldest devotees. And to one of its youngest: a tall, lithe, fire-eyed 20-year-old whose 16 scalps in the series puts him one behind Stuart Broad as the leading wicket-taker.
To Rabada went the honour of making Sunday’s play interesting. To him, too, should go gratitude for ensuring that there is a game of sorts out there on Monday.
SA were 42/1 in their second innings, a lead of 175, when bad light ended play. They are on top because Rabada did most of the doing in dismissing England for 342 in reply to SA’s first innings of 475.
That England were able to add 204 runs to their overnight score of 138/2 before they were dismissed was due in large part to Moeen Ali’s gritty 61.
Moeen was last out having helped realise 131 runs for the visitors’ last four partnerships.
The top half of England’s batting was dominated by a pair of 76s by Alastair Cook and Root.
Cook was undone by a rising delivery from Morne Morkel that veered into the left-hander and took his outside edge on its way to Quinton de Kock’s gloves. That left Cook 41 runs short of becoming the first Englishman to score 10 000 test runs.
Dean Elgar was caught behind off James Anderson coming around the wicket and angling the ball at him, and SA suffered another blow when Hashim Amla was hit on the thumb by Ben Stokes.
Amla removed his glove to reveal an existing bandage, and there was blood next to his nail when that came off.
Amla and his thumb survived, but SA will need him in one piece on Monday if they are to retain the advantage.