Man of the match Kagiso Rabada believes he still hasn’t “arrived” in Test cricket despite becoming the youngest fast bowler to take 13 wickets in a game as he bowled South Africa to a massive 280-run victory over England in the fourth Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday.
Rabada finished with six for 32 as England were routed for just 101 in their second innings, losing their last seven wickets in just 68 manic minutes on the final morning, giving the 20-year-old match figures of 13 for 144.
In the history of Test cricket, only one bowler, Indian spinner Narendra Hirwani, has had a better return at a younger age, taking 16 for 136 for India against the West Indies in Chennai when he was just 19 years and 85 days old.
Rabada’s figures are also the best ever for South Africa against England, and the second-best against all opposition, bettered only by Makhaya Ntini’s 13 for 132 against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 2004/5.
“The ball was coming out very nicely and I had good rhythm as the match went on, it felt better today. I just tried to do the basics right, I’m a youngster and I’m still learning. I still haven’t arrived yet but I’m just going to enjoy the moment because in my first bowl of the series I only took three wickets and got smashed everywhere. It’s great to take 13 wickets, something you don’t do every day,” Rabada said.
As far as captain AB de Villiers is concerned though, Rabada is the man.
“Every time I asked him to perform he did. He’s shown the maturity of someone who’s played more than a hundred Tests, while he’s got the pace of someone who’s just played one or two!
“KG has impressed us all, we need to look after him very well and make sure that he’s always fresh when he walks on to the field. A guy like him is always hugely exciting,” De Villiers said.
South Africa’s comprehensive victory, although not enough to prevent England from winning their first series on these shores since 2004/5 – which were also times of transition in the Proteas Test team – does bring to an end a run of nine Tests without victory and De Villiers was obviously mightily relieved to enjoy the turnaround in fortunes.
“Teams go through phases and I never felt it was panic stations. In this game we managed to apply pressure for longer and did the basics better, and because of that we got it right in terms of the result, it’s not that complicated. If you do the small things right, more often than not you’ll win.
“It feels a bit like a new beginning, although it’s dangerous to say that. We’re doing the same things we’ve done for the last few years and we haven’t changed our thought processes. Our attitude was always good, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. There are a lot of reasons to feel that,” De Villiers said.
The arrivals of Rabada, the most exciting bowler to emerge in South Africa since Dale Steyn, as well as the difference made by Stephen Cook as a solid specialist opener and Temba Bavuma in the middle-order, have clearly, however, provided a boost to a struggling Proteas outfit.
“A couple of changes were necessary, they brought a fresh vibe and confidence from having done well in domestic cricket. Stephen Cook also brought a lot of experience into the squad because he’s played a lot of first-class games and scored a lot of runs.
“Temba has been a real bright spark. There were signs in Bangladesh and India that he looked at home, like he belonged. So I knew it was just a matter of time before he scored big runs and he’s had a fantastic series. Him and KG coming through has been fantastic. We all know the history of our country and the racial issues, and having them step up and perform together has been one of the highlights of my career,” De Villiers said.