Kagiso Rabada can not only bowl but can bat as well.
The Test was already marred by the ball-tampering controversy. But the show had to go on and so South Africa resumed their second innings on the fourth day at Cape Town. South Africa added another 31 runs to their overnight score of 238 when Josh Hazlewood dismissed AB de Villiers. A devastated Australian team were already not in the greatest of their mental states and hence, that allowed the opposition to put up one partnership after another. Even the tail-ender Philander delivered with the bat.
He shared a crucial 55-run stand with Quinton de Kock before the latter was finally sent back to the pavilion. On any other day, it would be Keshav Maharaj coming in next to bat. But Cape Town watched a young Rabada walked in in tremendous swag with his bat. The swag was not restricted until his entry but it continued while he lasted at the crease. De Kock got out on the first ball of the over and it was Rabada who faced the rest of the five balls off Pat Cummins. His defensive skills were more than visible; he made the correct use of footwork and that allowed him to survive at the crease for a long time. South Africa took lunch at 333 for 7 when Rabada had survived 22 balls and had scored 12 odd runs.
Rabada, on strike, was welcomed with 140+ Km/hr deliveries from Mitchell Starc post lunch. He mostly swung his bat but he failed to make any connections or other times he only blocked them. This battle went on for a couple of overs when finally Rabada showed what he was capable of doing. Rabada smashed Starc for three boundaries reminding Starc that he was a good player of the short ball. Although Rabada was dismissed in the next over, he contributed some vital 20 runs to the total. More than the runs, his survival for 46 balls against a full-fledged Australian bowling attack did the damage to an already down bunch.
This was not the first time when Rabada showed that he could bat fairly well down the order. In early 2017, South Africa toured New Zealand for a three-Test series. They were up 1-0 after two Tests and still could be denied a victory if New Zealand won the final Test. The match was played in Hamilton and the weather forecast was bad right from the opening day. On the first day itself, a lot of time was lost because of the rain but the play somehow managed to happen. The openers Dean Elgar and de Bruyn threw away their wickets soon and at one point South Africa were 97 for 4. As the day progressed, a total of 250 also looked difficult before No. 7 batsman de Kock stuck around at the crease for a long time.
Surprisingly for the Black Caps, de Kock found the required support from Rabada as the two went on to put important 46 runs for the ninth wicket and that certainly would go on to hit the hosts later on in the game. The Kiwis were already without their spearheads of Trent Boult and Tim Southee and meanwhile, the youngster did not spare any bowler – Matt Henry, Neil Wagner and de Grandhomme – all were smashed for boundaries. Rabada scored a quick fire of 34 off 31 including six fours and a six. Eventually, the match ended in a draw and South Africa sealed the series 1-0.
If people thought it was one off from the 22-year-old, he once again showed glimpses of a potential bowling all-rounder during the home series against India. By winning the first two Tests, South Africa had already sealed the three-Test series. A win in the third game would give them an incredible whitewash over the World No. 1 team.The trio of Morkel, Philander and Rabada bowled India out for a mere 187 runs in the first innings and that was one step done towards a win. However, the Indian bowlers hit back harder. They dismissed Aiden Markram for two runs. Since it was towards the end of the first day, Rabada walked in at No. 3 as the nightwatchman.
By stumps, he still was yet to get off the mark. When play resumed on the second day, the Indians would have targeted Rabada to be their first wicket of the day. But that turned out to be Elgar; for just 16 runs, the hosts were lost both their openers. Meanwhile, the damage repair work was being done by someone South African soon would consider it’s all-rounder. Rabada along with Hashim Amla took the innings forward. After his small stand with Elgar, he shared a 64-run partnership with Amla. Rabada survived for 84 balls against a charged up Indian bowling line up of Bhuvenshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. Only three South Africans managed to score in double digits that innings and Rabada’s 30 runs were among them.
Rabada’s stand with Amla’s was South Africa’s biggest partnership that innings. It was the same Amla who had suggested Rabada could be the all-rounder South Africa have been looking for across formats. If you observe him as a batsman, he appears to get right behind the ball, he pulls or hooks fearlessly and along with that his recent knocks have shown that he has a sound defence too. Moreover, he is a good player of the short ball too, ask Starc about it!
“There is a possibility – he takes his batting very seriously. We joke when he bats, he looks a bit like Chris Gayle! So, if he develops into that, it would be great! But he takes it seriously and he is a talented youngster, and with the right, nurturing environment and people behind him and encouraging him, sure, why not?,” Amla said in 2016.
In the past, South Africa found possible bowling all-rounders in the likes of Philander and Chris Morris. However, Philander’s continued injury layoff has affected the Proteas’ batting depth in the Test side, and while Morris has proved his worth as a batsman his bowling is not good enough to keep him in the Test team. In these circumstances, Rabada’s slowing growth as a bowling all-rounder will be a blessing for the South Africans.