Kagiso Rabada believes South Africa need to “find a way” to win this first Test against India without the injured Dale Steyn.
Steyn was virtually ruled out the entire series on just the second day on Saturday after hobbling off with an ankle injury.
But despite just being 23 Test matches into his fledgling career, Rabada already has the experience of carrying the South African attack in Steyn’s absence. It was a monumental effort when Rabada was just one of two seamers, along with Vernon Philander, who bowled South Africa to an epic victory over Australia at the Waca when the veteran seamer popped his shoulder in Perth 12 months ago.
At least here at Newlands, South Africa entered the Test with four fast bowlers along with left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.
“Luckily this time we went with four seamers. So there’s three seamers now that have to do the work. Otherwise Temba (Bavuma) would have to bowl again (laughter). But yes, it’s never nice for Dale because he’s just come back from injury, so just feeling very sympathetic for him. It’s not a nice thing, but we have to find a way to win this Test match,” Rabada said after another riveting day of Test cricket.
The Steyn setback has certainly left South Africa less pleased heading into the third day, despite having tightened their grip on this first Test. The home side currently have an overall lead of 142 runs with eight wickets remaining after earlier dismissing Indiafor 209. Rabada, in fact, is the nightwatchman at the crease on two with Hashim Amla undefeated on four.
The lead could have – in fact should have been – much more but for a young Indian cricketer that fears no-one. Not even a fearsome four-man South African attack that was being compared to the great West Indians of yesteryear.
Hardik Pandya talks a good game. Considering he has only played 20 first-class matches there is not much to back it all up, although he did hit a century in just one session in his last Test innings that should have at least set off some warning bells.
But on Saturday, even with the element of good fortune of being dropped and mis-stumped, he certainly showed he had the mental fortitude and grit to be a genuine Test cricketer. Not even a Rabada delivery that hit the 24-year-old in the groin could fell him.
He certainly also has all the shots and flamboyance that will bring plenty of people through the turnstiles. It was his 93 breathtaking runs that breathed fresh life into the tourists after they had slipped to 92/7 and in real danger of being blown away completely.
Rabada certainly enjoyed the contest with the peroxide-haired all-rounder, especially after dishing out some bouncers at him during the final session.
“That’s why we play this game to find a way to win. We sat at tea and thought of gameplans and what to do to stop the momentum. And that is why we came around the wicket and it helped. We are happy,” the young paceman said.
“He likes to play his natural game by playing shots. Sometimes that can put you on the backfoot, sometimes that can pay off for the bowling side. So it’s a bit of a gamble, but if he chooses to play that way and it works for him then great – and we need to find a way to counter him.”
Pandya’s heroics was not consigned to the willow alone though. He also picked up the crucial wickets of South Africa’s two openers Aiden Markram (34) and Dean Elgar (25) that gave India a glimmer of hope of restricting the Proteas in their second innings.
With intermittent showers set to disrupt play on Sunday that could take some time out of the game, Rabada was hesitant in identifying a target South Africa would be comfortable with setting India.
“It is tough to say score right now. We are looking at bat time, looking to bat normally and see what happens from there. We want to make it hard for them to score.
“I think it’s a wicket where you really have to graft. You can’t just come in and just play shots everywhere. It’s almost like there’s a ball that will have your name on it. I think you need a little bit of luck.You need to really grind,” the fast bowler said.