Cape Town – Former Australia captain Mark Taylor was among those lauding Rilee Rossouw after the Free Stater arguably signalled his arrival as a Proteas one-day player of genuine quality in Adelaide on Wednesday.
Very recently turned 50 and nowadays a popular television commentator, “Tubby” -- as suitable a judge of left-handed batsmen as anyone -- said he felt there were shades of Rossouw’s recently retired compatriot Graeme Smith in the powerful way he belted the ball as South Africa stirringly beat Australia by seven wickets in the first of three Twenty20 internationals.
“He plays with quite hard hands and when he (connects) it really pings off ... he reminds me of Graeme Smith in that regard,” Taylor said.
The 25-year-old Rossouw, whose early limited-overs appearances for the Proteas in recent weeks have not been without teething problems and seen some ill-luck compound that, cut loose in a big way at revamped Adelaide Oval to deservedly earn the player-of-the-match mantle for his booming 78 off 50 balls.
Such was Rossouw’s impact that another young stroke-player who is rather more established in the SA mix, Quinton de Kock, played an unusual second fiddle for significant periods as their second-wicket alliance of 129 in fewer than 15 overs knocked the stuffing out of the Aussie attack and teed up the consummate win.
Yes, there was some good fortune along the way for both exciting customers – not least Rossouw being dropped on a fledgling seven – but in this format risk and daredevil spirit are often rewarded handsomely and this was one of those instances.
The Bloemfontein-born No 3, let’s not forget, had taken to the crease after only three deliveries of the South African innings, having seen fellow T20 international debutant Reeza Hendricks nick behind for a duck.
Some of his front-of-the-wicket aggression and the timing of those shots, frankly, carried the stamp of a much more seasoned and celebrated individual and from a reasonably fringe element at this stage of the Proteas’ squad in the longer ODI format, Rossouw may have edged himself that key bit closer to a meaningful role at the World Cup.
Clearly he has the potential to revel on the true, good-carry pitches of Australia, where South Africa will play many of their games at that major tournament.
As another expert left-handed critic, Kepler Wessels, said in the SuperSport studio: “You can’t doubt his abilities; he plays on instinct. He thrives on the ball coming nicely onto the bat.”
Remember that the very reason Rossouw got into the national plans during winter assignments outside the country was because he had piled on the runs immediately beforehand for SA ‘A’ in various matches Down Under.
If Rossouw was one player to serve notice of his CWC 2015 ambitions, another was Kyle Abbott.
In a collectively sound, professional bowling display that earlier kept the Australians to a well short of par 144 for six – some local pundits believed 180 was the competitive mark – the bustling Dolphins seamer produced probably his best showing yet (4-0-21-3) in 10 one-day matches across the codes for his country.
Significantly, with death bowling still not a wholly settled or smooth-firing area for the Proteas, Abbott’s closing stint was especially top-drawer as he fired in yorker after yorker and the Aussie batsmen simply could not get any meat from their blades onto the ball.
“It’s an absolute skill to be able to bowl ball after ball in that slot,” said an admiring Ian Healy, the former Baggy Greens wicketkeeper, in reference to Abbott’s consistency.
Closer to home, another guest analyst for SuperSport, former Test middle-order batting stalwart Ashwell Prince, was hardly less effusive: “(Abbott) doesn’t have all the variations, but he runs in with commitment and attacks the crease.”
This result marked a pretty seismic shift in the Proteas’ fortunes in T20 internationals in Australia, where they had previously played just three over the course of two different summers, and been drubbed every time.
Many of us simply hoped we’d see them look more competitive with this near-dangerously experimental combo.
Instead we got far, far better than we’d bargained for.
South Africa have a chance to swiftly kill off the series when hostilities move to Melbourne on Friday (10:35 start, SA time).
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