An all-round praise for Kyle

2013-02-26 00:00

KYLE Abbott’s dream debut against Pakistan in the third and final Test in Pretoria — where he captured seven wickets in the first innings in a man-of-the-match performance — has kickstarted his career on the international stage.

Saturday afternoon, February 23, 2013 will remain etched in every South African cricket follower’s memory — the time, the place and the person.

It was an afternoon at SuperSport Park when Dolphins quick Abbott was asked to have a bowl by Proteas skipper Graeme Smith as Pakistan attempted to make some headway into South Africa’s first innings of 409.

They were well placed at just over 50 for one wicket, when Abbott, in his debut Test, ran in.

His first ball was on the pads, drifting down leg, and was neatly helped to the boundary. An inauspicious start, nerves perhaps. A couple of hours later, and Abbott was leading the Proteas from the field, having wrapped Pakistan up for 156, his contribution being a massive 7-29 in 11.4 overs.

He nabbed his first Test scalp from his sixth ball, with opener Mohammad Hafeez caught in the gully by Dean Elgar and the image of Abbott running down the pitch, arms aloft in celebration, remains endearing.

The wickets kept coming and he was even on a hat-trick at one stage, poised to be the second South African, after Geoff Griffin at Lords in 1961, to take a Test three-in-a-row.

It wasn’t to be, but his seven wickets on debut is second only to Lance Klusener, who finished with 8-64 against India, at Eden Gardens, in 1996.

Abbott went on to claim a further two wickets in Pakistan’s second innings, finishing off with figures of 9-68 in the match, good enough for the man-of-the-match award.

There was none happier on Saturday than Abbott’s first team cricket coach at Kearsney, André van Zyl, who remembered a schoolboy who was upstanding, polite, humble and hard-working.

Said Van Zyl: “He came to us from Grantleigh School in Richards Bay and I saw something special in a tall lad who incidentally, said he was a batsman.

“He batted at three of four for us, but his bowling was special. For a schoolboy he was quick, bowling full and straight and I had him in the first team from Grade 9 through to matric.

“He had a great work ethic and many a time he stayed after practice for throw downs and advice on his play. He accepted whatever came his way, saying that if he was to progress further, the time would come, it was out of his hands.

“His time definitely came last Saturday and I could not be happier for a more decent person.”

Van Zyl added that Abbott was head of Sheffield House at Kearsney in his matric year.

“I could not have wanted a better man at the helm. His respect and sheer decency make him a rare breed in today’s world,” Van Zyl added.

“I sent him an SMS on Saturday to congratulate him and he replied, ‘Thanks Sir’. That from a 25-year-old who had just burst into Test cricket.”

At yesterday’s Kearney assembly in the school chapel, headmaster Elwyn van den Aardweg made special mention of Abbott, highlighting his manner and determination, saying he was a perfect example of someone who had worked hard, taken the good with the bad and never given up.

It’s another feather in the school’s cricketing cap after current convenor of selectors and old boy Andrew Hudson announced his arrival in Test cricket with 163 against the West Indies in 1992.

Jesse Chelin, CEO of KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union, said: “We are excited and proud of Kyle’s achievement. He has carried his good form at domestic level through to the international stage, announcing his arrival in style.

“It’s a testament to his hard work and discipline paying off and how he has progressed under Dolphins coaches Graham Ford and Lance Klusener.”

And the man of the moment remained forever humble, saying: “It will take a while to sink in. Everyone bowled as well as me and it was thanks to their pressure that I got the wickets.

“Graeme [Smith] kept asking me if I was done, but there was no way I was going to let this moment go until the job was done.”

Abbott’s dad, Neil, was “still on cloud nine”, not believing what his boy had achieved.

“We are still up in the air, above reality. It was unbelievable. We wanted him to have a decent bat, maybe pick up a few wickets, just make good use of his opportunity,” he said.

“When I chatted to him on Saturday evening, he said to me, ‘Dad, what have I done?’”

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