Olivier sweats over maiden scalp

Duanne Olivier (Gallo Images)
Duanne Olivier (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Duanne Olivier, depending on his general disposition, may be in for a slightly fidgety night.

The Proteas debutant botched a glorious opportunity to earn his treasured first wicket in Test cricket when he failed to grasp a caught-and-bowled chance in just his fifth over at the premier level of the game against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers on Friday.

South Africa, on weather-curtailed day two of the dead-rubber third contest, had already made early inroads in the embattled tourists’ first innings - they were 55 for two at the time – through the more established customers in the all-seam attack, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada.

But then Kusal Mendis uncertainly chipped a delivery from the tall, lean Knights tearaway back towards the bowler, who mistimed his jump and didn’t get his hands at all properly behind the tantalising offering as the ball plummeted to the deck.

From a team perspective, Olivier’s gremlin - he didn’t look too mortified, in truth - wasn’t to prove expensive because the batsman, who had not budged from his 41 at the time, succumbed three overs later to a Rabada progressively cranking up his menace.

By early stumps at a shaky 80/4, Philander and Rabada had accounted for the four Sri Lankan wickets between them, both of these more seasoned players, frankly, looking capable of doing a “run-through” job on the remaining members of the ‘Lankan order to retain their series-long respective form.

Still, given the expectation that conditions will remain borderline spiteful for batting, there must still be a decent chance that Olivier will, finally, get himself into the wickets column -- the weather gods permitting -- on Saturday.

He may or may not want to be reminded, as he awaits the landmark, that pace-bowling debutants at the Wanderers have had decidedly mixed fortunes – either awesome or near-awful -- in the three most recent Tests offering them first-time caps at the venue.

Last season, Hardus Viljoen, now a Kolpak exile, made his debut against England in a Test that clinched the series for the visitors, and had a rather brutal baptism as he returned an expensive 15-0-79-1 in the English first knock and then 4-2-15-0 in the short-lived second as they won by a comfortable seven wickets.

In February 2013, Pakistani left-armer Rahat Ali similarly had a tough beginning to Test cricket at the Bullring, getting a match analysis of 0/100 as South Africa roared to an emphatic 211-run victory.

But Australia’s very slippery – and since severely injury-prone -- Pat Cummins revelled, by stark contrast, on his Johannesburg debut in November 2011, being instrumental in a nail-biting two-wicket win for the Baggy Greens.

In what has still been his lone Test match thus far, he followed up a first-innings 15-3-38-1 with a lethal haul of 6/79 in the SA second that clinched him the man-of-the-match mantle.

While he still seeks that heartening first dismissal, Olivier at least has made a lively, disciplined enough start to his debut game, showing off his languid action and just a bit of icy-stare “mongrel” that is hardly unwelcome in a strike bowler.

SuperSport, during the abbreviated day’s play, demonstrated how his action is not dissimilar to the more proven Philander’s - though Olivier habitually attacks from wider at the bowling crease -- and that may explain to some extent why he had only travelled for 13 runs in his six overs.

What’s more, commentator and former national captain Shaun Pollock, unashamedly old-school in certain respects, likes the fact that Olivier bowls in long sleeves … a throwback, he reminded, to a previous era.

If he was subconsciously thinking of the late Clive Rice, for example, that would be a fairly agreeable comparison, wouldn’t it? 

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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