Hoping to make his mark, Rabada bounces back
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.