Kagiso Rabada showed once again why he is one of the most exciting teenagers in world cricket as he spearheaded a strong first day for the bizhub Highveld Lions against the Dolphins in their Sunfoil Series match at the Wanderers on Thursday.
Rabada dismissed three of the Dolphins’ top four batsmen and with Hardus Viljoen running through the lower-order with the second new ball, the Lions had reduced the Dolphins to 289 for eight when bad light stopped play with one over remaining to be bowled.
The 19-year-old junior world cup winner is not only a wonderfully athletic quick bowler, but is also mastering the important art of control and adapting to different surfaces. On a Wanderers pitch that certainly provided assistance with the new ball but was otherwise pretty flat, Rabada maintained an excellent length and was rewarded with fine figures of four for 65 in 23 overs.
The one top-order batsman not to fall to Rabada was opener Imraan Khan, who scored 29 before being dismissed in highly unusual fashion.
Pumelela Matshikwe forced Khan back into the crease with a delivery that spat back at the left-handed batsman and, as the ball went behind Khan from his defensive bat, it hit the glove on the hand that he had taken off the bat.
The senior Lions players were alert to the handled the ball rule and Khan became the first South African since Free State wicketkeeper/batsman Lefa Mosena, against Limpopo in 2007/8, to be dismissed in that way.
The unlikely wicket left the Dolphins, who had won the toss and elected to bat first, on 53 for three, but the momentum then shifted the way of the visitors as the pitch settled down against the softer ball.
The wristy Cody Chetty and the determined, experienced Daryn Smit dominated the second session as they took the Dolphins to 156 for three at the tea break.
Smit had scored a dogged 60, the tenacity he showed in handling the aggressive short-pitched mode of attack from around the wicket by the fiery Chris Morris being one of the highlights of the day.
But the resistance came at a cost and the blow Smit took behind the ear from Morris in the fifth over before the interval eventually caused him to retire hurt in the second over after the break.
Chetty and Smit had added 107 for the fourth wicket off 231 balls, but the unfortunate departure of Smit did not stop the runs from flowing as captain Morne van Wyk came to the crease and the fifty partnership came up at a run-a-minute.
There was little inkling of the carnage to come when Australian exchange umpire Gerard Abood waved the second new ball around at the start of the 82nd over with the Dolphins cruising on 238 for three.
A couple of half-volleys from Rabada in the fourth over with the new ball gave Chetty (106) the opportunity to register his fourth Sunfoil Series century, a gritty effort that saw some fine strokes for his 16 boundaries off 192 balls, but some equally impressive defence and the ability to pick up singles all over the field.
But that was the high point of the day for the Dolphins: from 253 for three when Chetty reached three figures, they lost five wickets for 26 runs.
Three balls after his century celebrations, Chetty’s stay of 312 minutes was ended by Rabada nipping a delivery back into him and just clipping the bails; there were more high-fives for the Lions soon thereafter as Viljoen trapped Van Wyk lbw for 44 with the next delivery and four balls later also had Graham Hume adjudged leg-before for a duck.
Both decisions by Abood were contentious – Van Wyk was well forward while the left-handed Hume seemed to have been struck outside the line of off-stump – and they wrested control of the day away from the Dolphins.
Rabada then had Mathew Pillans (2) caught behind and Viljoen removed Keshav Maharaj (13), Neil McKenzie tumbling backwards and taking a spectacular catch at first slip, before Tshepo Moreki (2*) and Daryn Dupavillon (8*) battled through to stumps and lived to fight another day.