Kagiso Rabada took center stage in the match he nearly didn’t appear in, smashing out David Warner’s off stump as South Africa pushed ahead in the third test against Australia on Friday.
Having dramatically overturned a two-test ban in the week before the game, Rabada won his latest tussle with Warner and took 3-81 to help keep Australia to 245-9 in its first innings at Newlands. That put Australia 66 runs behind South Africa’s 311 in a test where the winner can’t lose the series.
It might have been even better for South Africa if tailender Nathan Lyon hadn’t launched an adventurous counterattack for Australia at the end of the day, when he thumped 47 off 38 balls in a 66-run partnership for the ninth wicket with Tim Paine (33 not out).
Still, on 266-8 overnight and tottering themselves, the South Africans wouldn’t have imagined they’d hold such a solid lead. Rabada played a major role in that with ball and bat.
First, he was part of a late 50-run stand for South Africa that took the home team past 300. Opener Dean Elgar batted through the innings for his 141 not out and Rabada hung around for 22 useful runs.
Rabada then shared the limelight in South Africa’s bowling effort with Morne Morkel, the retiring fast bowler who took his 300th test wicket on the way to 4-87.
The pair combined to subdue Australia’s batsmen after opener Warner raced to 30 off 14 balls, hitting all of his five fours and a six off Rabada. Fellow opener Cameron Bancroft made a stoical 77.
Rabada, in trouble for his over-the-top celebrations in the second test, one of them screaming in the face of Warner, behaved himself on day two.
A member of the crowd didn’t, though, as Warner was confronted and allegedly verbally abused by a spectator as he walked of the field having been sent packing by Rabada.
That Rabada strike to get Warner was the big early blow that set the tone for South Africa.
It came after Warner hit three successive fours off Rabada in one over. In the next, he hooked a huge six over the backward square leg boundary. The ball needed to be recovered from a roof of one of the stands by a man using a crutch.
Warner sliced the next delivery for another four, but was out the ball after when Rabada tightened his line and smashed the off stump out the ground.
Rabada was also in the midst of it for the second wicket to fall, taking the catch at backward square leg that dismissed Usman Khawaja off Morkel.
The Australians were going at nearly six runs in the first session, due mainly to Warner.
That run rate was reined in as Rabada and Morkel went to work, while Vernon Philander pitched in with 2-26.
Morkel captured Shaun Marsh caught behind for No. 300 in test cricket and celebrated the milestone excitedly as his international career approaches the end. He broke out of a team huddle to pump his fists down toward the ground and then looked up at the sky.
He is the fifth South African to reach 300 test wickets after Shaun Pollock, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Allan Donald.
Morkel also finally put a stop to Lyon’s antics at the end of the day, which threatened to erase South Africa’s position of dominance. Lyon swung lustily to hit eight fours in his highest score in tests.
Along with the competitive cricket came more of the simmering animosity, though, that has accompanied this series since an off-field confrontation between Australia’s Warner and South Africa’s Quinton de Kock in the first test.
As Warner walked off the field and up the stairs leading to the dressing rooms at Newlands on Friday, he was confronted by a man who directed comments at the batsman, and followed him. Warner stopped in his tracks at one point and turned to face the man, who was later thrown out the ground.