Hop­ing to make his mark, Rabada bounces back

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

AT A VENUE that has played host to some of fast bowl­ing’s great­est feats, South Africa’s next po­ten­tial en­trant into the pan­theon’s of the best all time quicks, came bound­ing down the stairs from the dress­ing room yes­ter­day, keen to get un­der­way a week in which he’s aching to make an im­pres­sion on this Test se­ries.

It’d be hard to be­lieve South Africa can ac­tu­ally strengthen a side that won the pre­vi­ous Test by 340 runs, but that’s ex­actly what they will do at The Oval from Thurs­day with Kag­iso Rabada set for a re­turn af­ter serv­ing a one match ban at Trent Bridge last week.

Bar­ring any sort of cat­a­strophic mishap at train­ing this week, Rabada will take the place of Duanne Olivier in the start­ing team.

He threw him­self into train­ing yes­ter­day at a chilly Ken­ning­ton Oval, more ex­cited than most about what this Test may hold. There’s an op­por­tu­nity to make a mark and set up a Test win, thereby en­sur­ing South Africa can’t lose the se­ries. There’s also the op­por­tu­nity to be part of an at­tack that even has the nor­mally re­laxed bowl­ing coach Charl Langeveldt ex­cited and there’s the his­tory of this venue which has borne wit­ness to some mag­nif­i­cent fast bowl­ing feats.

One of those in­volved some­one who’s grown close to Rabada in the last few years, Michael Hold­ing, who fa­mously claimed 14 wick­ets there in 1976 on a flat track in one of the hottest English sum­mers on record. Clips of Hold­ing bowl­ing in that match have fea­tured reg­u­larly on lo­cal TV the past few weeks, and would un­doubt­edly have caught Rabada’s eye. So would Devon Mal­colm’s 9/57 in the South Africa’s sec­ond in­nings in 1994, which re­mains the best fig­ures in a Test at the ground.

Rabada, would love noth­ing more than to have his name next to those and it’s a mouth-wa­ter­ing prospect for his skip­per Faf du Plessis and Langeveldt.

“His work­load is up, so he’s ready to go,” said Langeveldt.

“He was ob­vi­ously dis­ap­pointed about what hap­pened (at Lord’s). He learned a lot from it, which is the im­por­tant thing to take away from in­ci­dents like that. KG’s a strong char­ac­ter, he was pos­i­tive all week. He said that come Thurs­day: ‘I want to be ready for the next Test.’ He’s a young­ster with lots of en­ergy, I be­lieve he’ll be ready to take his game to the next level, I have no doubt he will step up.”

Rabada, Chris Mor­ris and Morne Morkel are all ca­pa­ble of pro­pel­ling the ball at speeds ex­ceed­ing 140km/h, a prospect that ex­cites Langeveldt. “It’s nice for me to work with, I’m sure the whole of South Africa en­joys watch­ing it, too.”

With such fir­ing-power, dis­ci­pline be­comes a vi­tal com­po­nent. Rabada will have to main­tain the stan­dards set at Trent Bridge where the South Africans didn’t bowl no-balls, while Langeveldt also stressed the im­por­tance of be­ing ‘bor­ing’ against England’s core of ag­gres­sive mid­dle or­der bats­men.

“Their guys are ag­gres­sive, par­tic­u­larly their mid­dle or­der, they come out and they play. If we can con­tain the run-rate, it plays into our hands be­cause they do have an ag­gres­sive mind­set.” As with any good at­tack, hav­ing a va­ri­ety of op­tions is vi­tal in up­set­ting the rhythm of op­pos­ing bats­men and be­sides the three out and out fast men, the role of Ver­non Phi­lan­der and left-arm spin­ner Ke­shav Ma­haraj can­not be un­der­stated.

“Vern is ‘steady Ed­die’, when I want some­one to bring the run-rate down, to hold an end, he’s the guy that steps up. Peo­ple don’t re­alise his value, in an at­tack with two strike bowlers, he holds it to­gether for us,” re­marked Langeveldt.

England ap­pear to have un­der-es­ti­mated Ma­haraj, too. Al­though they at­tacked him at Lord’s, he quickly showed how much he’d learned from the first in­nings of that match and has picked up 10 wick­ets in the open­ing two Tests, the most among the South African bowlers.

Mean­while JP Du­miny was re­leased from the squad yes­ter­day and is un­der­stood to be re­turn­ing to South Africa. Du­miny was dropped af­ter the first Test.

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