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Rabada seven pushes England back

South Africa secured a significant lead and moved the Centurion Test forward on the back of a stirring bowling performance

Rabada seven pushes England back - Cricket News
Kagiso Rabada celebrates the dismissal of Joe Root.
Day three of the third Test between South Africa and England was meant to be Kagiso Rabada’s day, the day when a budding Test career’s lift-off was announced to the world. Instead Rabada’s 5 for 78 was relegated to a footnote as Stuart Broad demolished South Africa and sent it spinning to a series defeat.

Rabada’s maiden five-wicket haul may have lacked some of the drama of Broad’s spell, but the manner in which it was achieved left little doubt that it would not be a one-off. On Sunday (January 24), the third day of the fourth Test, Rabada repeated and then bettered the feat, and this time nobody could steal his thunder. His figures of 7 for 112 saw England bowled out for 342 to concede a 133-run deficit in the first innings.

This was an even better performance from Rabada, and not just in terms of numbers. The pitch at the Wanderers was such that a bowler could feel optimistic every time he ran in, but before Rabada’s first scalp on Saturday, wickets in this game had cost 50 runs apiece. There was some assistance for Rabada thereafter, but it still took 29 overs and a lot of hard work for him to become just the second player after Waqar Younis to have taken six-wicket hauls in both Test and ODI cricket at the age of 20.

As England’s innings dragged on and Kyle Abbott was forced from the field by a tight left hamstring, South Africa became hugely reliant on Rabada, a bowler playing just his sixth Test and 20th first-class match. That he could handle such pressure and lead them off the field to a standing ovation said everything about his mental qualities. He has a long and exciting career ahead of him, injury permitting.

Stephen Cook made sure that Rabada’s hard work was not frittered away, as he saw off the majority of a testing 17 overs to see South Africa to 42 for 1 before bad light brought the day to a close. With James Anderson and Stuart Broad getting the ball to talk, Stephen found himself twisted this way and that as he took evasive action, while Hashim Amla was struck on the right thumb. Upon removing his glove he revealed extra protection on the digit which suggested he was carrying an injury already.

Nevertheless Amla battled through to the end on 16, while Stephen was 23 not out. With the pitch visibly deteriorating each session, South Africa’s overall lead of 175 is already formidable.

England began the day on 138 for 2 with Alastair Cook and Joe Root well set, but a tricky first hour made it clear what it was up against, with inconsistent bounce becoming a regular factor. Alastair managed just nine runs in that time, and on the stroke of drinks Morne Morkel came around the wicket to find the edge and have him caught behind for 76.

Root had looked more comfortable and scored more freely, moving from his overnight 31 to 76. But Rabada returned for a spell before lunch that changed everything. He got one to straighten and kiss the edge of Root’s bat, and in his next over James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow were also caught behind by Quinton de Kock. Rabada went to lunch with five wickets to his name after a spell of 3 for 3 from four overs.

Rain forced the players from the field 11 deliveries after lunch, but it didn’t last long. When the game restarted Ben Stokes gave England a customary boost with 33 at better than a run a ball, but it took Rabada just two deliveries with the second new ball to strike as the all-rounder was caught at first slip. With Abbott off the field and Rabada tiring, England was able to recover from 252 for 7 through Moeen Ali, who scored 61 and shared stands of 43 with Chris Woakes (26) and 25 with Broad. Rabada eventually did for Broad, but received some help as JP Duminy and Morkel chipped in at the end.

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