Five-star Rabada shrugs off the ring rust to put South Africa on top

The fast bowler took 5-44 to leave India 208-8 when bad light and rain brought a premature close to day one

By Reuters

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South Africa's Kagiso Rabada (centre) celebrates with Dean Elgar (right) after the dismissal of India's star batsman Virat Kohli. — AFP
South Africa's Kagiso Rabada (centre) celebrates with Dean Elgar (right) after the dismissal of India's star batsman Virat Kohli. — AFP

Published: Tue 26 Dec 2023, 9:13 PM

South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada shrugged off any ring rust after a long absence from the Test arena to claim a five-wicket haul and put South Africa in a strong position against India in the first test on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old fast bowler took 5-44 to leave India 208-8 when bad light and rain brought a premature close to day one at Centurion outside of Pretoria.

It was the first Test for Rabada since South Africa beat the West Indies in Johannesburg in March but he showed no ill- effects from his long absence from first-class cricket.

"I was pretty focused in my training and I knew what I wanted to get out of my training but I think days like this happened in cricket, where sometimes you get the ball in the right areas and you’re successful and today was just my day," he told reporters.

"I'm pretty happy with the way I bowled. All week, the ball has been coming up nicely so I came into the match quite confident and I'm just glad that all the focus and hard work paid off. My mind and body was feeling good coming into this test series."

Rabada made the initial breakthrough against India and took three quick wickets after lunch to stop touring side wresting back control, including having Virat Kohli caught behind with a superb delivery.

"It just swung away late and most of the time he seems to just cover that channel," Rabada said. "He’s a fantastic player and when you play against him you really have to be on, so I’m glad I got the faint edge there."

KL Rahul, however, continued to provide resistance and was 70 not out at the close.

"India have a quality batting line-up with quite a bit of experience so 208-8 … we would have taken that before the game started and especially because we sent them into bat. All in all, I didn’t think we bowled badly but I think there's room for improvement," Rabada added.

India, 91-3 at lunch, were pegged back as they lost three wickets for 30 runs early in the second session when Rabada showed his class.

He bowled Shreyas Iyer for 31, had Kohli caught behind for 38 as he feathered a stunning delivery and Ravichandran Ashwin (8) snagged at second slip by leaping substitute fielder Wiaan Mulder.

Rahul, however, proved a road block for the home side, who were hoping to dismiss India for under 200 on a track tailor-made for their all-seam attack.

Rahul shared a 43-run partnership for the seventh wicket before Rabada returned to have Shardul Thakur caught by Dean Elgar for 24 and claim his 14th five-wicket haul in tests.

But Rahul continued to torment the attack as he assumed the responsibility with his tail-end partners, his 70 runs coming quickly off 105 balls and taking India past 200.

South Africa put India into bat and Rabada made the initial breakthrough after a wet outfield delayed the start by 30 minutes when India captain Rohit Sharma’s injudicious hook presented Burger with a catch at long leg.

It was followed by more of dream start for Burger, one of two new caps for South Africa, as he had Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill caught behind to leave India teetering on 24-3 but Kohli and Iyer led a fight back with a 68-run partnership.

Both were dropped when they had only four runs with Marco Jansen spilling Iyer and Tony de Zorzi putting down Kohli.

South Africa captain Temba Bavuma pulled up with a hamstring strain as he chased a boundary-bound shot from Kohli before lunch, necessitating his departure from the arena for a scan.

"It revealed a left hamstring strain and he will undergo daily medical evaluations to determine his participation in the match," the team said in a statement.

Bavuma had only recently returned from a similar injury.

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