DUBAI // DUBAI // Allan Donald. Brett Lee. Dale Steyn. Mitchell Johnson. Kagiso Rabada?
The long history - not solely the past two weeks - of international cricket between South Africa and Australia has been pock-marked by devastating fast-bowling.
The handful of spectators who made it to the Dubai International Cricket Stadium yesterday were given a sneak preview of the next ace off the production line.
An 18 year old who was nearly lost to rugby, and who still hopes to complete a law degree even if cricket does take him, announced himself with a spell of searing pace against Australia.
Rabada’s six for 25 was all the more impressive given the fact the wicket here is easy paced.
His haul was clearly the defining reason for South Africa’s landslide success.
“I thought it was spectacular and it is awesome to have a man like him in your armory,” Aiden Markram, the South Africa captain, said of Rabada.
“Especially when he is as pumped up and as motivated as he was today.
“This performance was awesome and I think it is the cherry on top for all the work he has put in prior to this tournament. It has paid off.”
Given what he has shown in this tournament so far, it is easy to get carried away over Rabada’s prospects.
For all his talent is still raw and youthful, but he does have one obvious character trait to his credit: he seems so laid back to the point of being entirely unfazed.
Has he ever bowled as fast as he did here, having pushed 90mph at times? “It came out well,” he said, before admitting he could “crank it up a little more.”
What about Ray Jennings’s famously tough coaching methods? “We can handle it.”
He reasoned that there is no point getting ahead of himself when there is a final still to win here, against Pakistan on Saturday.
“You can acknowledge your good performances, but I think it is important to keep your feet on the ground,” the Johannesburg-born bowler said.
“I’m just a relaxed guy by nature. I do think that for myself and the team, it is not over until it is over.”
Having a bowling weapon like that at your disposal is a gift for a captain, but even then it can be a double-edged sword. They have to face him every day in the nets.
“I tell the coach I’m not quite warmed up yet,” Markram joked about the daily challenge of batting against his strike bowler.
“He is not easy to face in the nets, but it is good for us because it helps us improve as well.”
Markram and his opening partner Clyde Fortuin had set the platform for South Africa’s victory by posting 105 in the opening 20 overs.
When they were parted, when Markram fell to an extraordinary one-handed diving catch by Guy Walker at point, the innings stuttered.
The eventual total of 230 was some way short of what it might have been, but the Australians did not stand a chance once Rabada had fired out Matthew Short, Jaron Morgan and Damien Mortimer.
“He bowled with good pace and good intensity,” said Alex Gregory, Australia’s captain. “It was definitely a great spell of bowling.”
Gregory and Jake Doran, the 17 year old left-hander, did their best to repair the damage as they shared a 63-run stand for the fourth wicket.
When they both fell in quick succession, though, the Proteas were on course for the final.
“You can never be satisfied without winning,” Gregory said
“ We would have liked to have won the competition but South Africa were a very good side today.
“I thought 230 was definitely a score we chase if we got a good start and dominated the middle-overs.
“Unfortunately we lost a few quick wickets and were behind the rate the whole way.”
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