Rabada: Attack leader ... at 20

Kagiso Rabada (Gallo Images)
Kagiso Rabada (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – Kagiso Rabada on Sunday completed a distinguished personal double in the summer hostilities against England.

The baby-faced fast bowler, by ending the one-day international series with nine scalps (average 19.88, economy rate 4.73), ensured that he was South Africa’s leading wicket-taker – exactly his status in the prior Test series, a hugely rare feat for a 20-year-old.

Rabada was edged out overall for dismissals in the ODIs by the lanky English left-arm seamer Reece Topley, who accounted for 10 poles at 21.90, although his economy was a fair bit weaker at 6.08.

Topley also had the advantage of an extra match, playing in all five fixtures whereas Rabada was rested for the opener in Bloemfontein.

It was probably the intention to give the languid Lions paceman a bit more time off as the series progressed, but such was his influence – yet again – that it became almost impossible to keep him sidelined.

In an otherwise inconsistent Proteas attack, you always felt that it was up to either Rabada or Kyle Abbott to bring an element of control when things looked like unravelling; the latter ended the ODIs just behind Rabada with eight SA wickets at an economy rate of 5.21.

Perhaps under-rated, considering the rightful laurels for captain AB de Villiers’s game-tilting unbeaten century, was Rabada’s vital pair of scalps in the space of two deliveries – dangerous duo Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler – at a time when England were ominously barrelling along in the middle of their innings.

Those two dismissals, both bowled and with Rabada’s impressive nous against individual foes coming to the fore, pegged the tourists back and went a long way to explaining why they were eventually bowled out well short of negotiating a full 50 overs.

It was also the second time in the series that “KG” had completed his bowling stint while conceding fewer than four runs to the over – something he also managed while wicketless in Port Elizabeth.

In total, that phenomenon has been enjoyed by Rabada five times in his 14 bowling innings in the ODI arena, which tells you that there is something of a Shaun Pollock-style discipline element to accompany his many attributes in the strike column.

Just a reminder that the St Stithians product had snared 22 wickets at 21.90 in only three Tests against England, making him the overall series bowling “champ” even in defeat for South Africa; the vastly more experienced Stuart Broad bagged 18 scalps at 20.61 for the visitors.

For all his rawness, there is a strong case for saying that when South Africa go to the looming ICC World Twenty20 – his first senior global limited-overs tournament – Kagiso Rabada may well do so as leader in every respect of the Proteas attack, especially as doubts still swirl around Dale Steyn’s readiness.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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