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The Irresistible Kagiso Rabada

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Kagiso_Rabada_Cricket_South_Africa“People talk about the future of Test cricket. This, for me, is an important part of it. That's KG running in for 15 overs trying to get someone out and eventually when he does; he has to show that passion. Otherwise you could just put a bowling machine and a robot to bat”

Faf du Plessis sorrowfully expressed his concerns about ICC’s abject, set-in-stone player conduct rules, which resulted in Kagiso Rabada’s ban for 2 Tests, making him miss the rest of the series.

The whole of South Africa must have wailed. Not only did Rabada pick 11 Test wickets in the 2nd Test, he left irreparable scars in the minds of the Aussie batsmen with his rip-roaring spell of fast bowling.

Many thought of Kagiso Rabada as another one of those mightily talented school kids who shine at the under-19 World Cup and then vanish into obscurity. His terrific 6/25 in the under-19 World Cup semi-finals against Australia in 2014 defined him for less than a year, for he turned up in the senior side and picked up a hat-trick on his debut.

It has been a journey to becoming the best in the World since then. After three years of International cricket, Rabada can indeed be called the most successful of fast bowlers in this period of time.

Since his debut, no other seamer has picked up more wickets than Rabada's 135 in Test cricket. That it came in a mere 28 Tests at an eye-popping strike rate of 38.9 makes his feat even more humungous.

 

To put things into perspective, only one other bowler in the history of Test cricket (with a minimum of 100 wickets) has a better strike rate than Kagiso Rabada. That man, George Lohmann, who represented England, stands incomparable in terms of statistics.

 

To nearly match him, more than a century after he played his last Test, is a high honour. For a long time, Dale Steyn had been the epitome of consistency in Test cricket. Rabada's entry was a sight to behold.

Even more spectacular was his rampant, fiery transformation at Port Elizabeth from a run-conceding, lackluster seamer to an unplayable, relentless, fiery monster.

Rabada began the Test by bowling inconsistent lines. Although the green grass enabled him to go through his opening spell relatively quietly, his second spell cost him more than six an over. Even as Vernon Philander nagged consistently, Rabada's inability to even hit the stumps was ridiculed on social media.

Only 3.3% of Rabada's deliveries were hitting the stumps.

Yet, when Philander removed two at the top and Ngidi broke through with Warner's big wicket, you could sense Rabada warming-up.

 

“I’ve learnt that it’s the small details that will separate you from the rest. It’s not really your skill that is the point of difference because you already possess your skill. It’s about doing the right things at the right time and that’s a really fine line.”

 

Rabada had said this in an interview last year. Doing the right things at the right time was Rabada's specialty. So was doing it quite often.

He identified the moment to stamp his presence in the game and removed the Aussie skipper, Steven Smith, with a sensational delivery. The after effects of the impromptu celebration might probably haunt South Africa even after this series but there was no way of stopping Rabada here. The rest of the Aussie batting-order soon followed as Rabada picked up three in an over and you could almost sense the fire in his eyes.

He finished with a five-wicket haul and a near certain ban from the rest of the series. Most bowlers would be dejected to know that their role in the series would likely come to an end after the Test, and turn in an average performance in the second innings.

Not Rabada. This young, fiery, rampant fast bowler is made of steel and isn't one to back away from a fight.

If he was going, he was taking the Aussies down with him.

What unfolded in the second innings was a dream. He scythed through Warner's defences with a jaffa that the Aussie opener would have missed even if he had been told the exact trajectory of the ball before it was delivered.

Shaun Marsh fell to another corker, as did Usman Khawaja, just when the Aussies seemed to be making it to safety. However, Rabada's best was yet to come. With the ban almost certain now, Rabada steamed in to send Mitchell Marsh's stumps cartwheeling early on day 4. He followed it up with the wickets of Cummins and Starc and celebrated his six-wicket haul.

With each passing spell from Rabada, one could clearly see what the World would miss in the next two Tests. This was superior, high-quality fast bowling that not even the modern day Bradman, Steven Smith, could answer.

His over the top, aggressive celebrations might not be a pleasing sight. But as du Plessis stated, is he a bowling machine to celebrate a prized wicket with a pleasant smile? ICC’s farcical ruling will now take the sheen off this series and the cricketing fraternity will be denied the sight of Kagiso Rabada steaming in yet another time, eyes wide, nerves taut, Aussie hearts jumping.

That Australia will be celebrating more than South Africa after this Test loss says a lot about Kagiso Rabada's influence in this series. Thou shalt be missed!

 

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