Australia gain the upper hand with Kagiso Rabada out for Proteas

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    South Africa are set to field an understrength attack for next week’s blockbuster third Test against Australia, with Dale Steyn ruled out due to fitness concerns and firebrand Kagiso Rabada banned for the rest of the series.

    Champion quick Steyn had been expected to be fit in time for the third Test in Cape Town but now will only be considered for the fourth Test, Cricinfo reported yesterday.

    That is a major blow to the Proteas given Steyn’s wonderful Test record against Australia – 70 wickets at 27, with a blistering strike rate of 46.

    However, the loss of Rabada is an even bigger issue, with the 22-year-old having bullied Australia’s batsmen in a man of the match display at Port Elizabeth.

    Rarely has a quick bossed the Australians in such a manner on a pitch which didn’t greatly favour pace bowling. In the second inning, there was the rare occurrence of David Warner, one of the world’s elite express bowling players, battling to deal with a bowler’s speed.

    Rabada bulldozed through Warner’s defence repeatedly as the vice-captain’s reflexes failed him.

    That must have been an intimidating sight for the other Aussie batsmen, none of whom, bar captain Steve Smith, are as comfortable as Warner against extreme pace. Rabada had proven to be by far the biggest threat to the batting line-up, grabbing 15 wickets in the first two Tests.

    South Africa’s bowler Kagiso Rabada

    AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

    Compounding the loss of Rabada and Steyn is the fact Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel – the nation’s two other most experienced bowlers – have combined to take just eight wickets at 37 in what has been a low-scoring series.

    Morkel was dumped in favour of 21-year-old paceman Lungi Ngidi after bowling poorly for most of the first Test. At that stage it looked as though Morkel had played his final Test, having announced before this series that he would be retiring at its end.

    Now, Morkel looks likely to return in place of Rabada. That greatly weakens the attack, given the comparative ease with which the Aussies played Morkel when it mattered in the first Test.

    Philander, meanwhile, has been his accurate, frugal self, but has badly lacked penetration, taking just five wickets at a lofty strike rate of 92, which compares unfavourably to those of Rabada (32), Mitchell Starc (39), Josh Hazlewood (55) and Pat Cummins (55).

    While the Proteas still have a fine pace attack without Rabada and Steyn, they would lack the dynamism and penetration offered by either one or both of those bowlers.

    South Africa will hope Philander’s impact will swell due to his return to Cape Town, his most successful Test venue. In eight Tests at Newlands, Philander has hoarded 47 wickets at 16, including four five-wicket hauls.

    Vernon Philander appeals at Lord's.

    (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

    He has, however, had mixed results against Australia at Newlands.

    In 2011, he had one of the best matches of his career, as he took 8-78 in a big win over Australia at the venue. But the last time these nations squared off at that ground, four years ago, Philander had one of the worst games of his career, taking 1-158 as the Aussies hammered the Proteas.

    The major difference between those matches was the pitch condition.

    In the first of those Tests, the juicy green track perfectly suited Philander, whereas last time around he was neutered by a more parched and batting-friendly deck. It remains to be seen which type of Newlands pitch will confront the teams when they arrive at the ground next Thursday.

    With Steyn and Rabada out, Australia will have the edge on a drier pitch, which leads me to think we may see the first true green seamer of the series.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (89)

    • March 14th 2018 @ 7:21am
      Brasstax said | March 14th 2018 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      Good write up. I am not too sure whether match bans are best for test cricket at the moment. I am not saying that players should get away with bad behavior, but with test cricket under siege with hardly 3 or 4 nations playing it at a reasonable level of quality banning the few players that put bottoms on seats is shooting oneself in the foot. One pretty effective deterrent would be forcing the home board to withhold a portion of the annual contract payment rather than match fees.

      • March 14th 2018 @ 7:38am
        Christo the Daddyo said | March 14th 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

        I’m actually in favour of banning. And in fact, I think it should be used far more often and for longer. Fining a portion of a player’s match fee is worthless – particularly when for many of the players they derive the majority of their income from sources other than match fees.

        Does banning a player weaken a side? Absolutely. And this give the opportunity to remind the offending player that their behaviour costs the team.

        My guess is that if umpires/match referees/etc handed out some much more severe punishments you’d find the players quickly learned how to behave properly.

        • March 14th 2018 @ 7:45am
          Brasstax said | March 14th 2018 @ 7:45am | ! Report

          I mentioned that the home boards should be forced to withhold annual contractual payments rather than match fees which are peanuts.

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2018 @ 9:18am
            JamesH said | March 14th 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

            You could make the same argument about any sport being worse as a spectacle when top players are banned. The fact is, it’s proven to be the best deterrent over time. Look at how Warner reined his behaviour in at Port Elizabeth, knowing he had the ban hanging over his head.

            Half of the comments I read after the Warner-de Kock incident were lamenting how the game was being ruined as a spectacle because match officials, team administrators and the ICC were letting players get away with too much rubbish on the field. Now we’re supposed to let one of the worst offenders the game has seen in recent years get away with fines?

            Even big fines are going to be questionable in terms of their effectiveness because Rabada will keep getting praised by his teammates and SA (and plenty of neutral) fans alike for his fiery, aggressive nature, as long as he keeps helping SA win games. He will still get sponsorship deals and he will still be a hero. Unless the punishment actually hurts the side, he’s not going to change anything.

            • Roar Rookie

              March 14th 2018 @ 10:12am
              Matthew Pearce said | March 14th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

              Spot on. They’re called punishments for a reason. Leniency doesn’t work against serial offenders. Let him be hurting, sitting out a bunch of matches. Bonus points if his side lose. He won’t be putting himself and the team in that position again after that, if he’s smart.

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2018 @ 12:29pm
            spruce moose said | March 14th 2018 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

            Actually Brass,

            The CSA contracts are pretty small compared to the CA ones, so they do actually need match payments.

            Faf du Plessis as the captain is on 440k a year INCLUDING match payments. Steve Smith earns triple that as just a retainer.

            Rabada is unlikely to be on any more 300 considering his age, experience and role.

            South Africans get 7,000 a test. He’ll notice the absence of 14,000, not to mention the 75% he lost as a fine from his second test. He could have made 28k this series (plus a potential series victory bonus) he’s only making about 9k this series now.

            • March 14th 2018 @ 12:35pm
              Mickey of Mo$man said | March 14th 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

              I think the point was the majority of income for these top tier comes from sources external to their national contracts, i.e sponsoships and t20 tournaments.. which makes there match fees and even a percentage of their national contracts quite insignificant.

              banning players for a test or a number of test not only puts pressure on the individual player but also the captain and coach as well as other teammates who are all impacted as a result

              • Roar Guru

                March 14th 2018 @ 1:59pm
                spruce moose said | March 14th 2018 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

                Yes, in Rabada’s case, he’s getting a tasty 800k contract for Delhi over 3 years I think.

                South African cricketers tend not to rake in the money in sponsorships in South Africa. They aren’t anywhere near as marketable there as the Australians are here.

                Agree on the last paragraph, and that’s the way things go in a team sport. You let yourself and team down.

            • March 14th 2018 @ 1:31pm
              Bib said | March 14th 2018 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

              so what’s your point.

              ban Australian’s, fine Saffas?

              • Roar Guru

                March 14th 2018 @ 1:55pm
                spruce moose said | March 14th 2018 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

                That’s not the point at all.

                The point is that the punishment of a ban and missed payments should trigger Rabada into changing his behaviour.

                It’s a fantastic punishment.

      • March 14th 2018 @ 4:40pm
        Richard Powell said | March 14th 2018 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

        I’m getting fed up with cricket at all levels due to the bad blood between players. You even see it in park cricket with players abusing opposition and umpires. They think if Test players can do it, so can they… I’m in favour of Peter FitzSimons idea of yellow and red cards as a deterrent to bad sportsmanship. If a player oversteps the line, he will pay and the team will be sure to censure him.

        • March 14th 2018 @ 7:10pm
          Bazza said | March 14th 2018 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

          I think in your system rabada would of got a red card at the wicket of smith prob would of changed the game massively as saffas would be a bowler down and batter down that’s a huge loss to the game.

      • March 14th 2018 @ 10:32pm
        Bobbo7 said | March 14th 2018 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

        Agree Brasstax, terrible for Test cricket and what is or perhaps was shaping up to be a really good series.

    • March 14th 2018 @ 7:29am
      Brasstax said | March 14th 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      Another pretty effective deterrent would be in case of an offence of this nature, the other team should be given the choice of whether to bat or field first the next game and also a say in the nature of wicket prepared. This would force the team management and especially captain to keep players in line.

      Imagine Australia touring India next and being given the option to request a fast track and the power to ask the Indians to bat first!!! Assuming Kohli had crossed the line in the previous game of course : D

    • March 14th 2018 @ 7:46am
      Brasstax said | March 14th 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      Since an on field umpire carries so many things these days, maybe the ICC can also provide them with canes that they can use to mete out disciple then and there on the field!

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2018 @ 8:39am
      Chris Kettlewell said | March 14th 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      I think, in general, missing important matches is the best deterrent they have at this point. It also makes it about more than yourself. If the offense costs you money, then it only costs you personally, if it forces one of the teams better players to miss an important match, then he’s not only letting himself down, but his whole team. When it comes down to it, letting your team mates down is often a bigger thing than being out a bit of money, especially in the age of IPL riches.

    • March 14th 2018 @ 9:52am
      Ouch said | March 14th 2018 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      Shame Dale Steyn isn’t playing.

      • Columnist

        March 14th 2018 @ 11:02am
        Ronan O'Connell said | March 14th 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        We still might get to see Steyn in the 4th Test – would love to see one last Steyn v Warner battle.

        • March 14th 2018 @ 1:09pm
          Christo the Daddyo said | March 14th 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

          When was the last time Steyn played? Might be bit underdone first game back…

          • March 14th 2018 @ 5:10pm
            Phat Boy said | March 14th 2018 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

            First test against India two months ago

        • March 14th 2018 @ 2:25pm
          Ouch said | March 14th 2018 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

          Yep me too. I’m guessing that will be his last ever game against Australia.

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2018 @ 10:21am
      Fox said | March 14th 2018 @ 10:21am | ! Report

      Banning ruins the series to large degree. Robaba has troubled the Australian batting big time and is SA best bowler so that does not help the series as a contest at all.

      • March 14th 2018 @ 10:47am
        jameswm said | March 14th 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

        It’s part of the game, just as it would be if say Rabada got injured.

        Difference is, he has more control over this.

      • Columnist

        March 14th 2018 @ 10:56am
        Ronan O'Connell said | March 14th 2018 @ 10:56am | ! Report

        Injuries to key players lessen the spectacle of series too.

        Maybe the ICC should got a step further and ban injuries?

        • March 14th 2018 @ 11:05am
          hawker said | March 14th 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

          maybe they should butt out with their silly bans. No one gives a stuff about test cricket outside of Australia and England, here the ICC are banning arguably the brightest star in the game at the moment

          • March 14th 2018 @ 2:01pm
            jameswm said | March 14th 2018 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

            So you’re saying the punishment should depend on how good you are?

            • March 14th 2018 @ 2:55pm
              hawker said | March 14th 2018 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

              Of course. Test cricket needs its stars out on park not in the stands

              • March 14th 2018 @ 9:07pm
                Marshall said | March 14th 2018 @ 9:07pm | ! Report

                Going by that, Steve Smith is the no.1 batsman so should be able to do whatever he likes and NEVER be suspended?

              • March 15th 2018 @ 11:40am
                Jacko said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

                He is the captain of a team that does what it likes and never gets suspended

        • March 14th 2018 @ 11:01pm
          Bobbo7 said | March 14th 2018 @ 11:01pm | ! Report

          Not good for the game though is it Ronan? Fine him or whatever but the set up is not good for the game. You don’t want the stars missing cricket unless something serious goes on like Stokes or if a player punched another.

          What Rabada did was not all that bad. Idiot, much like Warner but that is the theatre of the game. As a fan of cricket I was hoping Warner would get a duck because he is a muppet but that’s the hero and villans part of the game and creates interest inside the game. I fear the ICC are going to tame it down too far.

          Wouldn’t aussie fans rather watch Warner or Smith take Rabada apart than gave him in the stands in game 3?

          • March 15th 2018 @ 9:33am
            Don Freo said | March 15th 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

            If he can’t play in the proper spirit, he is not playing cricket. Take the game away from him until he has a desire to play it fairly.

            The Kiwis and Aussies play in the right spirit. The Saffas are letting the southern hemisphere down.

            His histrionics won’t be missed.

            • March 15th 2018 @ 1:08pm
              Bobbo7 said | March 15th 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

              Don, the Aussies regularly get ugly on the cricket field.

              • March 15th 2018 @ 2:39pm
                Don Freo said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

                Your imagination. Have another read of Matthew’s rap sheet.

                History and paranoia are 2 different things, Bobbo7.

              • March 15th 2018 @ 2:58pm
                Jake said | March 15th 2018 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

                Neil Wagner, the worst of the lot is a kiwi.

              • March 15th 2018 @ 3:03pm
                Don Freo said | March 15th 2018 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

                No. Rabada is the worst that has ever been. How can one have so many demerits so early in a career?

                Keep trying to deflect. The only problem is you keep deflecting it onto your own stumps. The finger is raised, Jake.

            • March 15th 2018 @ 11:47pm
              Bobbo7 said | March 15th 2018 @ 11:47pm | ! Report

              No Don. The Australian cricket team has quite an extensive history of poor behaviour, including the current series.

              Delusion and a short memory are different things, although even with a short memory you can look at Warner’s recent behaviour as a fine example.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2018 @ 11:48am
        Ryan H said | March 14th 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

        It doesn’t help the sake of the series at all, but the kid needs to learn unfortunately, as it’s not like this is a first offence.

        Personally I can’t stand every commentator going on and on about what a fiery character Rabada is and how great it is to witness – to a point it might be, but what about when he completely lets his side down and makes winning the series now a whole lot harder? As others have said above, unfortunately missing matches is the best way to try and iron out this behaviour because it actually hurts the team significantly.

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