Olivier keeps nerves un­der con­trol on de­but

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

AL­MOST ev­ery­thing about his de­but was a bit like that old Eminem tune for Duanne Olivier.

To quote Mar­shall Mathers: “His palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, he was ner­vous.” There was no vomit on his sweater, thank­fully, but it was some­what un­tidily un­tucked as he bowled at the Wan­der­ers. “It’s just what’s com­fort­able for me,” he re­marked.

Over­all it was a good de­but for the 24-year-old who was called into the squad af­ter Kyle Ab­bott’s con­tract was torn up when he an­nounced he was tak­ing the Kol­pak route.

Olivier’s first act as a Test player did not come with the ball but rather in a spot with which he was wholly un­fa­mil­iar – as night­watch­man on the first day of the third Test. “I’ve never done it, even at fran­chise level,” he said about head­ing to the crease in the penul­ti­mate over of the first day fol­low­ing the late dis­missal of JP Du­miny.

“It was an op­por­tu­nity for my coun­try, I thought I’d take it on and do it. Bat­ting with a guy like Hashim (Amla) was an un­be­liev­able ex­pe­ri­ence for me. It was scary, I’ve never bat­ted that high and I’m bat­ting at five for my coun­try... it was quite ex­cit­ing.”

If his thoughts seem a bit scat­ter­gun, it’s per­fectly un­der­stand­able. As Olivier said: “When I play four­day cricket there’s no-one watch­ing; here it feels like there’s 20-mil­lion peo­ple watch­ing. It’s in­tense, crazy, you need to con­cen­trate, you need to be on the ball, you can’t won­der off watch­ing the big screen. It’s ex­cit­ing and chal­leng­ing, the level is much dif­fer­ent.”

He per­formed his night­watch­man du­ties per­fectly well, oc­cu­py­ing the crease for 41 min­utes. He man­aged to score three runs, but it was his work as part of a four-pronged at­tack that was his pri­mary role, and he did that very com­pe­tently in­deed.

He fin­ished with match fig­ures of 18-5-575, tak­ing ad­van­tage of a pitch with plenty of as­sis­tance for the seam­ers. Bowl­ing be­hind Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander was help­ful as well.

“There was a lot in the wicket and if I went ac­cord­ing to plan and what Faf (du Plessis) told me to do, then I knew I’d get re­warded.”

Olivier is re­al­is­tic, too. He knows that once Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel get fit, his stay in the Test side may not be a long one. “I’m not too fazed if I don’t play, it’s not the end of the world. I’ll just keep work­ing hard at fran­chise level un­til I get an­other op­por­tu­nity.”

For now, fol­low­ing a per­for­mance he ded­i­cated to his fam­ily and girl­friend, he’s happy just to call him­self a Test player. “It’s a mas­sive hon­our to play for the Proteas. To share a dress­ing room with Hash, Faf, JP ... un­be­liev­able.” DUANNE OLIVIER

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