Abbott – from abyss to Hobart hero

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TELFORD VICE, Hobart

WHEN Kagiso Rabada bowled South Africa to victory in the first test at the WACA, Faf du Plessis gave him a hug and a smile and turned to a room crowded with reporters.

“I’m sleeping with him tonight,” Du Plessis said.

On Tuesday, after Kyle Abbott took 6/77 to complete a match haul of 9/118 that had plenty to do with South Africa winning the second test and the series in Hobart, he found himself the recipient of his captain’s bromantic embrace.

“It’s his turn tonight,” Du Plessis told the assembled press.

It wasn’t Abbott’s turn on March 24 2015, when he was inexplicably and outrageously left out of South Africa’s team for their World Cup semi-final against New Zealand in Auckland.

South Africa lost to a team whose time had come, and with that a dream died.

“It was a low point for everyone, not only the players but the whole country,” Abbott said on Tuesday. “At the time we didn’t quite know what to do.

“We drew a line in the sand. That was the culture of the past. It’s up to us to create a new culture.

“I was lucky enough to be in that first team (to win a test series in Australia, in 2008-09), led by Graeme (Smith). That culture was great but time moves on and players move on.

“We’ve come to understand as a team that our values are totally different to what they were 18 months ago.

“We sat down (and discussed) our goals and what we stand for, and we walk it and we talk it every day.

“That’s pretty much how you turn things around.”

Turned things around South Africa have, and emphatically so.

This time last year they were getting their backsides kicked in India, where the pitches cheated them out of a fair shot at even contesting the test series.

Tainted though that result was there was no doubting that England were the better team in the test series that followed in South Africa.

Swings and roundabout results in various subsequent short format series didn’t count for much but faith flickered afresh when Australia were hammered 5-0 in a one-day rubber in South Africa last month.

And now this.  

South Africa’s performance at the WACA was impressive enough, what with Dean Elgar and JP Duminy scoring centuries and Rabada taking a five-wicket haul, and that just in the second innings.

But beating Australia in less than seven sessions of actual play, which South Africa did in Hobart, took things to another level.

“We never thought we would get close to bowling them out in a session,” Abbott said of South Africa taking eight wickets for 32 runs on Tuesday.

“From the start of the test we speak about winning in the last session, taking it deep and being patient.

“So when things speed up like that it, it is rewarding. But we bowled really well (on Monday) evening, and that was our investment session for (on Tuesday) morning.

“We knew that we were one or two balls away from cracking open that middle order and it was proved (on Tuesday) morning.”

Indeed it was. It was also Abbott’s turn to shine, and he took it like a champion.

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