PERTH (Reuters) - South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis described Kagiso Rabada’s performance as “phenomenal” after the young paceman helped turn a parlous situation on day two of the first test against Australia into a thumping 177-run victory on Monday.
The tourists had done well to get to 242 all out after being 5-81 on day one but were looking down the barrel of a heavy defeat when Australia raced to 158 without loss on day two.
Matters got worse when, having finally broken the opening partnership, South Africa’s pace spearhead Dale Steyn was forced off the field with a shoulder fracture that ruled him out of the series.
Already without regular captain AB de Villiers, the South Africans rallied where they might have folded and dismissed Australia for 244 with Rabada and debutant spinner Keshav Maharaj pitching in with five of the wickets.
After centuries from JP Duminy and Dean Elgar helped them to 540 for eight declared, Rabada then took 5-92 to ensure Australia never got close to their victory target of 539.
“I am very proud of how the team pulled together,” said 21-year-old Rabada, whose five-wicket haul was his fourth in nine tests.
“We lost Dale, who is a key part of our team, but everyone played their part and we came out victorious. The job of all the bowlers is to take wickets and with Dale gone we have to do extra.”
Rabada’s clean bowling of Usman Khawaja with a rip-snorter of a delivery in the first innings was a vintage piece of fast bowling and the reverse swing he conjured up off the WACA deck marked him out as a special talent.
“It’s got a nice bounce, you hear stories of quick bowlers doing well here,” the Man of the Match added.
“It’s very similar to Wanderers back home so I enjoy bowling here, especially with those cracks. A bit of a bowlers’ paradise ... the ball started reversing nicely, the Australians also went into reverse.”
With only five days until the second test in Hobart, Rabada said he was looking forward to getting some rest.
“I can confidently say there will be not much bowling over the next few days but I will be ready for Hobart, if I get chosen,” he grinned.
Kyle Abbott or Morne Morkel will come in to replace Steyn and offer some help to Rabada, who bowled 31 overs in the second innings, and Vernon Philander, who clocked up 22.
“It’s never easy with two seamers but all you can ask for is the guys to put their hands up,” said du Plessis.
“Kagiso was phenomenal, to run in for 31 overs on a deck that was still good to bat on (and) to get the results in the end was an outstanding achievement for him and I‘m very proud of him.”
Du Plessis was also impressed with the contribution of Maharaj despite the left-arm tweaker finishing with figures of 1-94 in the second innings.
“He didn’t get the rewards he would have liked but he was amazing for us,” said the captain.
“With two seamers you need someone to just tie up an end and he just bowled beautiful line and length and made sure the scoreboard didn’t tick over too much for the Aussies.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty