Abbott's heroics edge Pakistan closer to series whitewash

PRETORIA Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:00am IST

Pakistan's Rahat Ali celebrates after taking the wicket of South Africa's Kyle Abbott on the second day of the third cricket test match in Pretoria, February 23, 2013. REUTERS/Ihsaan Haffejee

Pakistan's Rahat Ali celebrates after taking the wicket of South Africa's Kyle Abbott on the second day of the third cricket test match in Pretoria, February 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ihsaan Haffejee

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PRETORIA (Reuters) - Five days ago pace bowler Kyle Abbott was planning to play in a domestic T20 match for his Dolphins franchise this weekend. Now he has the second best test figures ever on debut for South Africa.

Abbott plundered Pakistan in their first innings as he took seven for 29 to leave the tourists 156 all out and put the Proteas, who amassed 409 in their first innings, firmly in control of the third test at Centurion on Saturday.

Pakistan were forced to follow on and now face defeat inside three days after limping to 14 for one in their second innings, trailing South Africa by 239 runs.

Abbott was only called-up to the national side on Tuesday as cover following an injury to Morne Morkel, but a calf injury to Jacques Kallis has allowed him to make his international debut.

"I don't think it has really sunk in yet. I haven't had any sleep in the last two days, but for the first time now I don't have sweaty palms and a knot in my stomach, so maybe that is a sign I am starting to feel at home with these guys," Abbot told reporters.

Abbott believes the team bowled well as a unit on Saturday and as the hosts piled on the pressure to stifle the Pakistani batsmen.

"We were building pressure all day. I thought all the seamers bowled really well, even better than I did. It could have been anybody's day but luckily it was me," he said.

"Graeme (Smith) kept asking me, 'are you done?', and the word 'no' just kept coming out my mouth.

"Dale (Steyn) was also awesome, he stood next to me for most of my spell and just told me to be patient and hit the right areas."

It was a stunning turnaround in fortunes for the 25-year-old Abbott, who admitted he had been "going through the motions" in his first class career before former South African international Lance Klusener arrived to coach his franchise.

Coincidentally, it is Klusener who has best test figures on debut for South Africa after he took eight for 64 in India in the 1996/97 season.

"Lance has been unbelievable, he has really helped me on the mental side of the game," Abbot said. "He hasn't tried to change my technique. He has just spoken to me about hitting the deck a bit harder.

"In the last few years I was going through the motions a bit, but he gave me a kick up the backside."

Wicketkeeper AB de Villiers, whose fine innings of 121 earlier in the day was overshadowed by Abbott's heroics, said it was the control with which Abbott bowled that was most impressive.

"It was an amazing performance," De Villiers said. "He didn't show any signs of nerves and was hitting the deck hard in a good area more often than not.

"It's a captain's dream to have a guy like Kyle, he has a lot of control and knows what he is doing. He made the batsmen work all day."

South Africa lead the three match series 2-0.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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