Olivier keeps nerves under control on debut
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