“South Africa now have a massive poser when Philander returns. Olivier was supposed to be their reserve seamer. He overshadowed Steyn and Rabada at Centurion, taking eleven wickets and virtually made himself undroppable”

Chester-le-Street, ENGLAND, June 2018

Durham vs Derbyshire

Overcast conditions and a green top welcomed Derbyshire in the Specsavers County Championship Division 2 match against Durham. Put in to bat, the hosts were jolted early on day one by a searing spell from the overseas quick Duanne Olivier who ran through their top and lower order, cleaning them up for 96. The skiddy South African quick picked up figures of 5/20 in the first innings and returned even more venomous in the second, removing the top guns in the opposition ranks yet again. He picked up another five-for to finish with 10 in the match and although Derbyshire lost due to some reckless batting, Olivier had impressed mightily.

Alur, INDIA, Aug 2018

India A v South Africa A Day 2

India A were comfortably placed at 322/4 as they confidently strode out on day 2 at Alur, a ground in the outskirts of Karnataka. Hanuma Vihari, currently in the Indian team in Australia, was batting on 132 and it appeared as though India A were well placed to grab another major win (in the first match of this series, they had thumped South Africa A by an innings and 30 runs).

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Duanne Olivier, though, had other ideas. Brought up on the flattest of surfaces in South Africa in Bloemfontein, the very tracks that unearthed Allan Donald, Olivier knew the length to bowl on this surface. India A added only 23 runs to their overnight score as the Proteas seamer ripped through them with five wickets in 18 balls. He finished with innings figures of 6/63 and South Africa A walked back with a draw.

Bloemfontein, SOUTH AFRICA, Dec 2018

Knights vs Titans

Three days before the Boxing Day Test for which he was picked, Duanne Olivier impressed his skipper Faf du Plessis, albeit in the opposition ranks for this match, with a brilliant performance in the 4-day Franchise Series match against Titans. The skiddy seamer, who had been bowling with great rhythm, bounced the Titans openers forcing their physio to work hard. The batsmen? Test openers – Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram. Olivier removed the both of them and in the second essay cleaned up Faf du Plessis and Heinrich Klaasen to finish with seven wickets in the match. Knights lost, but Olivier had the backing for Boxing Day Test from du Plessis.

***

Three completely different conditions, three equally impressive performances. Duanne Olivier is a man for all conditions. He was perhaps a touch daunted when South Africa first called him up to the Test team. With a side packed with terrific fast bowlers, Olivier found it hard to fit in. He never took more than three wickets in an innings in the five Tests he played before this.

When Lungi Ngidi stormed into the side, Olivier was as good as forgotten although Ottis Gibson, the national coach, kept saying Olivier was in their plans. He was, when Vernon Philander and Ngidi were ruled out of the Boxing Day Test. This time, Olivier was in great rhythm.

Also read: Christchurch and Centurion offer great joy, but MCG frustrates

All of his 368 First-class wickets were a testimony to his skills, yet questions were posed about the absence of the fast bowling duo and South Africa’s ability to cope up. It irked Dale Steyn so much in the pre-match press conference that he sarcastically said they had added another fast bowler in the side (Olivier), if they didn’t know about it.  

With the spotlight on Steyn and Rabada, Olivier emerged from the shadows and stole the show at Centurion with two five-wicket hauls in two days, destroying Pakistan with some fiery spells that had oodles of pace, great rhythm, good swing and seam. The short ball is his stock ball. 60% of his Test victims are off short balls. He had hurt Elgar and Markram before this Test with short balls.

In the first essay, he bowled 62% of the balls short according to CricViz. He was the quickest and most impressive pacer on show. He was constantly in and around the stumps, forcing errors from Pakistan batsmen. To out-bowl Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada in insane for a newbie in Test cricket. Olivier comfortably did so twice in two days.

Pakistan appeared to be headed to a massive lead in the second innings at tea break with the score at 100/1. Soon after the break, the free-flowing Imam-ul-Haq was cleaned up by Olivier. To peg Pakistan back further, the seamer then nipped out the resilient Azhar Ali with a lifter outside off.

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He added two more before the end of the innings to finish with match figures of 11/96. South Africa have 149 to chase down. It could well have been 300 had Olivier not intervened when he did. “I was a bit disappointed in my first two overs,” Olivier had said after the first innings. “I think my lines were a bit too short and I gave a bit of width. I think I was a bit nervous as well. My main focus was just to commit every ball 100% and it just seemed to work. The wicket’s bounce helped, and that’s one of my strengths.”

He was backing his strengths and the rewards just kept coming. This was a good surface for bowling but the seamer had been producing proficient spells everywhere he played through the year. A front-on action and a neat follow-through are Olivier’s strengths. The snap of his wrists come late and it gives the ball the extra pace. His run-up could befuddle you into believing he is a medium pacer if you haven’t watched him before. But by the end of his delivery stride, Olivier gains momentum and the final snap of his wrists gives the ball good pace. He clocked an average over 140kmph in the Test as per CricViz and the returns were there to be seen.

South Africa now have a massive poser when Philander returns. Olivier was supposed to be their reserve seamer. He overshadowed Steyn and Rabada at Centurion, taking eleven wickets and virtually made himself undroppable. They might have to squeeze out a batsman and fit Olivier and Philander together. Then, what do they do when Lungi Ngidi returns? Thankfully, that’s for the selectors to decide. But this performance from the unassuming Olivier would leave a mark. He has had a great year and has ended it with a telling, career-turning performance. South Africa would do well to give him more opportunities. How they do that remains to be seen, though, considering their ample pace bowling resources.

 

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