Kagiso Rabada is oddly better when Dale Steyn isn’t bowling, Quinton de Kock is from another planet, Hashim Amla is human after all and other lessons we learnt from South Africa’s remarkable 177-run win against Australia in Perth. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
South Africa engineered one of the finest comebacks in recent memory when they wrapped up a 177-run win against Australia in the first Test in Perth. Despite a slow start, and losing talisman Dale Steyn, the Proteas surged and outplayed Australia in every single aspect of the game.
They have now won three out of three Tests at the WACA and have a 0-1 series lead heading into the second Test. There are a few selection conundrums to ponder when the team arrives at Hobart, but for now, let us first reflect on the lessons from the first one.
Kagiso Rabada bowls better when Dale Steyn is not around
Don’t let anybody tell you Kagiso Rabada is a “prospect”. Rabada is the here and the now and he’s simply phenomenal. But has anyone noticed just how much more phenomenal he seems to be in the absence of Dale Steyn? It is one of those weird sporting anomalies. You would think that a bowler like Rabada bowling alongside Steyn would see the pair bring out the best in each other, but it has had quite the opposite effect. In the four Tests where he has played with Steyn, his average is just a notch higher than others – 26.54 compared to 23.65 in matches without Steyn. He’s taken 11 wickets in matches where he has bowled with Steyn and 23 in the rest. There’s a similar trend for his performances in one-day cricket. His average in ODIs is 19.72 when playing without Steyn (25 wickets) and 32.61 (18 wickets) with him. Now, we know we’re supposed to be the ones providing expert insight as to why this might be, but your guess is as good as ours on this one.
Faf du Plessis really is a crafty captain
Whether it was bringing the sweeper up to Usman Khawaja or backing Keshav Maharaj with an attacking field in his first Test – despite the paltry runs on the board – Faf du Plessis has shown again that he has a really good cricketing brain. There’s a ruthless streak about him that’s just not seen in AB de Villiers. While it is not entirely his doing that South Africa bounced back so impressively from their woeful first day, his leadership most definitely played a big part. Things could become slightly tricky when AB de Villiers returns from injury. Maybe, just maybe, though, selectors and management will make a call for the benefit of the team and keep Du Plessis at the helm in all three formats. De Villiers himself is the epitome of a team man and might very well surrender the role without being prompted.
South Africa are still notorious slow starters, but once they get going…
If you thought that this tour had gone to hell in a handcart by the first drinks break on day two, you’d have been right. South Africa were rather woeful with the bat, failed to do anything impressive with the ball and the Aussie opening pair had a field day. But oh what a difference a full Test makes. South Africa have been slow starters in series in the past – think back to The Oval in 2012 for example. The ability to “absorb and transfer pressure” was a hallmark of this side when they became number one in the world and while they seemed to let that slip just a little bit in the last 12 months, it finally seems as if they have their swagger back. The marketing people will tell you it’s the “Protea Fire”. You believe what you want. What we do know is that South Africa will be putting absolutely everything into this series – whether that’s their bowlers cranking up the pace or their fielders putting their bodies on the line to save every last run or effect a brilliant run, Temba Bavuma style.
Quinton de Kock is not here for your instructions
Quinton de Kock is like a Jack Russell puppy who has got into your shoe closet. He’s irresponsible, but you kind of don’t want to interrupt because the carnage is quite entertaining to watch. In both innings, he had the highest strike rate of all the South African batsman (of those passing 20 runs) and made healthy contributions. When he walked to the crease in the first innings, South Africa were 80-odd for five. Any sensible batsman would have knuckled down, knocked it about and tried to keep things calm. Management probably tried to tell him to do just that, but instead, De Kock played out eight balls and then launched consecutive fours off Peter Siddle. Percentage wise, he played out the least number of dot balls of any South African in both innings. De Kock is an enigma and having a player like him can be a blessing. However, the conservative cricket minds might be cautiously furrowing their brows in concern, pondering the day when his batting abandon might end up costing the team. For now, just enjoy it.
Hashim Amla is human after all
Spare a thought for Hashim Amla. Dismissed tamely in both innings and dropping three catches isn’t exactly a great few days at the office. The bad news for the Aussies is that when Amla has a blip, he comes back with meaning. The last time he was dismissed for single figures in a Test, he scored a 109 and 96 in the next one (vs England 2016). Before that, he made a double (also vs England in 2015) after being dismissed for seven and 12.
The weather forecast for Hobart is not looking too great and if South Africa play like they did in Perth, that might very well be the best thing for the Aussies. DM
Photo: South African captain Faf du Plessis (R) kisses Kagiso Rabada (2-R) after he dismissed Australian batsman Mitchell Starc on day 5 of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Western Australia Cricket Ground (WACA) in Perth, Australia, 07 November 2016. EPA/DAVE HUNT
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