Ver­non, KG snuff out Sri Lanka chal­lenge

Big quicks make mince­meat out of the vis­i­tors’ bat­ting line-up and put Proteas in pound seats

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ZAAHIER ADAMS

NINETY min­utes. Nine­teen overs. That’s all it took for South Africa’s fast bowlers to cre­ate yet an­other trea­sured af­ter­noon at this most sto­ried of cricket grounds.

And it was once again one of its favourite sons that tore up the script and pro­duced his personal epic.

Prior to this New Year Test Ver­non Phi­lan­der av­er­aged a su­per­hu­man 18.42 here. This will plum­met even fur­ther now after the “Ravens­mead Wrecker” tore up the Sri Lankan lower-or­der to fin­ish with 4/27 from 12 spell­bind­ing overs, which in the process took the 31-year-old past 150 Test wick­ets in just his 39th Test.

It was mes­meris­ing view­ing with no­body in the strong crowd ex­pect­ing a ca­pit­u­la­tion of such colos­sal pro­por­tions. Sri Lanka lost their last nine wick­ets for the ad­di­tion of just 54 runs to leave the hosts with a po­ten­tially match-win­ning 282-run first in­nings lead.

“Com­ing here to the home of cricket is al­ways a good place to play at. It’s a venue where I re­ally en­joy play­ing my cricket. To get my 150th wicket at New­lands, I couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter place to take it.

“I’ve got all my home­based sup­port­ers here. The Ravens­mead Wreck­ers! I re­ally en­joy play­ing my cricket here be­ing from Cape Town. I just want to help my coun­try win cricket matches,” Phi­lan­der said.

New­lands has a legacy though of pro­vid­ing the the­atri­cal back­drop for new he­roes to be un­earthed too.

Kag­iso Rabada may have shown off his spe­cial tal­ents on the world stage be­fore, but the 21-year-old would have known that a per­for­mance in the New Year Test in front of the knowl­edge­able New­lands sup­port base is where rep­u­ta­tions are earned.

The young fast bowler was cer­tainly fired up for the task ahead, es­pe­cially after the South Africans emerged from the dress­in­groom after the tea in­ter­val.

There was spe­cial glint in his eye when he came charg­ing in from the Wyn­berg End. The Sri Lankans cer­tainly felt the pres­sure in­crease as they tamely sur­ren­dered with se­nior bats­men Dimuth Karunaratne, An­gelo Mathews and Di­nesh Chandi­mal all guilty of sup­port­ing their demise with poor shot-se­lec­tion out­side the off­s­tump.

Their ill-dis­ci­pline should take noth­ing away from Rabada’s ef­forts though for his en­ergy and verve rat­tled the Sri Lankans to the core.

“KG bowled a very good spell for us just after tea that re­ally set up the rest of the game for us. He’s got those mo­ments in him, those spells in him, and I think there is still a lot to be seen of KG and hope­fully he can fire in the rest of the Test matches for us as well,” Phi­lan­der en­thused.

How­ever, there was one fur­ther twist in the plot after the Sri Lankans were rolled. In­stead of Phi­lan­der com­ing out with the new ball again to hope­fully com­plete a maiden Test hat-trick – he had ear­lier fin­ished off the Sri Lankan in­nings with two wick­ets off con­sec­u­tive balls – it was in­stead open­ers Dean El­gar and Stephen Cook who came out to take guard.

Cap­tain Faf du Plessis opted not to en­force the fol­low-on and in­stead chose to drive home the ad­van­tage even fur­ther with the bat. It was sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing Quin­ton de Kock’s cen­tury ear­lier in the day had set up a solid first in­nings and that the Sri Lankan re­ply had lasted just 43 overs in its en­tirety, but Phi­lan­der de­fended his skip­per’s de­ci­sion at the close of play.

“I think as a team we’ve made a de­ci­sion as to what is the best chance for us to win this game. We feel that set­ting up the game with the bat will al­low the bowlers a bit of a break. These are backto-back Test matches and the bowlers put in a big work­load in Port El­iz­a­beth. We feel this is the best way for­ward.”

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