Rabada, Nortje take South Africa closer to semis with big win over Bangladesh
A characteristically warm and sultry Tuesday afternoon in Abu Dhabi was far from ideal for a hostile spell of fast bowling. Especially considering the wear and tear pitches in the UAE have endured. Busting a gut under the scorching sun can be a futile exercise for pace bowlers.
Enter the tall, strapping Kagiso Rabada. Like any good fast bowler worth his salt, Rabada finds a way to surmount the conditions when in rhythm. He did so at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium with a display of supreme quality. The figures of 4-0-20-3 indicate the impact, but his excellence cannot be fully appreciated without delving into the manner of his dismissals.
On a surface where the bounce was expected to be low, Rabada was willing to test the middle of the pitch and see what it had in store for him. And he triggered pandemonium in the Bangladesh dressing room—batting consultant Ashwell Prince, the ex-Proteas batsman, in the anxious bunch—as a clever mix of fuller balls were interspersed with deliveries that climbed steeply from back of a length.
The outcome was that Bangladesh were dismissed for a paltry 84, their third lowest total in a T20 World Cup. South Africa went on to overhaul the score with six wickets in hand, ensuring that they remain in contention for a semifinal berth. The Proteas (6 points) are currently second in Group 1 with six points from four matches. A win over toppers England (8 pts) in their final game on November 6 could well decide if they qualify for the semi-final as the second team. Australia (4 pts) play Bangladesh on Thursday and West Indies in the early game on November 6.
While Anrich Nortje was also impressive with figures of 3.2-0-8-3, it was Rabada’s opening burst of 3-0-14-3 that set the tone for the Proteas. The procession of Bangladesh wickets began in the fourth over when Mohammad Naim tried to slog Rabada through the leg-side and only managed to offer a simple catch to Reeza Hendricks at midwicket. In this case, the batter was more at fault against a normal good-length delivery, but there was nothing routine about Rabada’s next delivery. It was almost yorker length, quick and swung in ever so slightly. Too good for left-hander Soumya Sarkar, who was a tad late in bringing down his bat and allowed the ball to hit his pad before bat. SA successfully reviewed the not out decision.
If Sarkar had to watch out for his toes, Rabada's next target was to test the diminutive Mushfiqur Rahim on his back foot. Duly came a couple of shorter balls and Rahim was gone, the ball taking the shoulder of his bat and going quickly to gully. Three wickets could have easily become four for Rabada a couple of balls later when a snorter to Mahmudullah was awkwardly fended by the Bangladesh skipper but Rabada was a few steps short on his follow-through.
While Rabada in such form is exhilarating to watch, Nortje—as menacing in his own right—can be equally devastating. Ask Mahmudullah. Having survived the short delivery from Rabada, he was found wanting when Nortje—the quicker of the two bowlers—banged it in. Mahmudullah tried taking evasive action, but the ball took his right glove and lobbed up a fair distance to Aiden Markram at backward point.
The rest of the innings went down with none capable of staging a fightback. Nortje merrily snaffled two more wickets while Dwaine Pretorius and Tabraiz Shamsi shared three wickets.
Rabada acknowledged that there was enough help from the Abu Dhabi pitch.
“The surface favoured the seamers and I’m just glad that today was my day. There’s a bit of bounce here. It’s a bit two-paced. Some balls skid through, but it’s probably the quickest pitch here (in the UAE),” he said at the presentation ceremony.
Brief scores: Bangladesh 84 all out in 18.2 overs (Anrich Nortje 3/8, Kagiso Rabada 3/20). South Africa 86/4 in 13.3 overs (Temba Bavuma 31*; Taskin Ahmed 2/18). SA won by 6 wkts.