TELFORD VICE, Centurion
WHENEVER you looked up at Centurion on Tuesday, Kagiso Rabada seemed to be taking a wicket. He claimed 6/32 in England’s second innings for a match haul of 13/144.
If you blinked, you might have missed SA taking England’s last seven wickets for 49 runs in 66 minutes to win the fourth test by 280 runs and to narrow the series gap to 2-1 in the visitors’ favour.
As Rabada took his 13th wicket to end the match, a smiling giant rose and applauded in the back of the pressbox, his mighty hands meeting in loud and repeated celebration.
It was the praise of someone who had been there, done that: the hands belonged to Makhaya Ntini, the only living South African who has also have taken 13 wickets in a test. Hugh Tayfield, who died in 1994, bagged 13 twice.
Rabada also had to do something twice on Tuesday. He thought Jonny Bairstow’s wild slash and the resultant slip had completed his first 10-wicket haul in tests. Only for replays to show he had overstepped. No problem: Rabada had a prodding Bairstow caught behind again with his very next ball.
After six tests, Rabada has 24 wickets. Ntini took 390 in 101 matches in a career of 11 years. But that prospects of Rabada scaling those heights, and then some, looks good.
Which only added to Rabada’s words when he said, “The key is to do it for 15 years, not one game.”
Was Ntini his hero growing up?
“I liked a lot of people, so I couldn’t pick one person. But he definitely was one of the people I liked.”
Another was Dale Steyn, who also had 24 wickets after six tests.
The rest of the SA team stood back to allow Rabada to lead them off the field and up the stairs to the dressingroom.
Up he loped as languidly as his 20-year-old legs would carry him, souvenir stump in hand. He paused halfway to hand that trophy to his father, Mpho Rabada, who was on the other side of the barricade applauding as lustily as Ntini, the Barmy Army and the smattering of locals who had turned out.
“I didn’t know he was sitting on that side; he took me by surprise,” Rabada said. “He said I must give him the stump and I gladly did.”
Rabada took his baker’s dozen in a match in which Morne Morkel was the only other SA bowler to claim more than one wicket. Did he feel as if he was doing it all on his own?
“I didn’t feel like I was carrying anything – guys were carrying me.”
The only time Rabada was up the creek without an answer was when he was asked if he thought a sterling performance against England could lead to a fat county contract.
He ummed. He aahd. Then AB de Villiers leaned across him and gave a firm answer: “No.”
It was also left to AB de Villiers to do Rabada’s bragging on his behalf.
“Every time I asked him to perform he did,” De Villiers said. “He showed the maturity of a guy who’s played 100 tests and the pace of a guy who’s only played one or two. He is the future.”
After SA’s rocky recent past, the present doesn’t look half bad.
England resumed on 52/3 and were shot out for 101 in the space of 82 deliveries. Only three of their players scored 10 or more runs on Tuesday and no-one made it to 15.
Pity none of that matters much.