After Australia victory, South Africa need to prove they can win without Kagiso Rabada

Kagiso Rabada sent Australia tumbling to defeat with stunning match figures of 11 for 150 in the Port Elizabeth Test match. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 March 2018

After Australia victory, South Africa need to prove they can win without Kagiso Rabada

LONDON: South Africa won the Port Elizabeth Test but lost their pace spearhead. Kagiso Rabada sent Australia tumbling to defeat with stunning match figures of 11 for 150, but then discovered that he would miss the next two Tests after one on-field transgression too many. With the series now beautifully poised at 1-1 with two to play, we look back at what we learned from St. George’s Park.

You did not need to be a mind reader to understand Faf du Plessis’ conflicted emotions after the six-wicket victory. Rabada was the player his team could least afford to lose, and his impassioned defense, comparing the Rabada-Steve Smith shoulder-brushing incident with David Warner’s stairwell rage in Durban, struck a chord. “For me, if you look at those incidents, one is brushing of the shirt, the other is a lot more aggressive. My question was: Why are both these incidents labelled the same (level 2, with three demerit points)? For me, they are not.”
In the history of Test cricket, only George Lohmann, who played the last of his 18 Tests in 1896, has a better strike-rate than Rabada among those with more than 100 wickets. Those he has left behind include Dale Steyn, widely regarded as South Africa’s greatest bowler, and Malcolm Marshall, who most of his peers consider the best there ever was. You can understand du Plessis’ funk.

By his exceptional standards, Smith has had a quiet series, with just one half-century and 130 runs in two Tests. Three of the dismissals came against orthodox left-arm spin, with Keshav Maharaj dismissing him once in each Test. Among the bowlers to have dismissed Smith more than once in Tests, are three lefties. He averages 22.33 against Maharaj, 39 against India’s Ravindra Jadeja and 43.4 against Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath. Those are hardly dire numbers, but when put up against a career average of 62.49, they do suggest a small chink in formidable armor.

Cameron Bancroft has scores of five, 53, 38 and 24 in the two Tests. Seven matches into his career, he averages a modest 27.18, and you can glimpse a worrying pattern. Eight times in 12 innings, he has faced at least 40 balls and batted for more than an hour. The quality opening batsmen, once they have seen off the new-ball threat, cash in. With just two half-centuries to his name, Bancroft has not been able to do that. Some, like the luckless Matt Renshaw, have been dropped for less.

Having announced his decision to retire at the end of this series, Morne Morkel started it needing six wickets to get to 300. He struggled for rhythm and figures of three for 121 in Durban, prompting the selectors to bring in the exciting Lungi Ngidi for the second Test. Ngidi was a superb foil for Rabada, taking five for 75 and breaking partnerships at vital moments. Had Rabada not succumbed to white-line fever, Morkel may have stayed on the sidelines. Now, it seems certain that both he and Ngidi will play in Cape Town.

In testing conditions where only four other batsmen went past 50, AB de Villiers smashed 154 runs off 172 balls. His unbeaten 126 in the first innings — most of those runs made in the company of the tail, and against vicious reverse swing — was the difference between parity and a match-transforming lead. Like Virat Kohli, he now has six centuries against Australia, a South African record and a gentle reminder of the folly of excluding him from any conversation about the world’s best batsman. At 34, he is significantly older than Smith, Kohli, Root and Williamson, but he is every bit as good.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

Updated 18 April 2019

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

  • Medvedev eliminates 6th seed Tsitsipas in three sets

MONTE CARLO: Top seed Novak Djokovic and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal showed no mercy in dominating wins to power into the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals on Thursday.

Djokovic extended his winning streak against US players with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Taylor Fritz.

The two-time tournament champion has now won nine in a row over Americans since losing at Wimbledon in 2016 to Sam Querrey.

“It was very challenging to play in these (windy) conditions,” Djokovic said. “Taylor just flattens the ball.

“We had five, six close games in the first set, I just managed to break his resistance midway through.

“After that, things went on my side and I felt more comfortable.

“This was one of these days where you just have to hang in there and try to put an extra ball back in the court — that was enough.”

Nadal repeated last year’s semifinal win over Grigor Dimitrov, beating the Bulgarian for the 12th time, 6-4, 6-1.

“I’m very, very happy, this is an important victory for me,” the second seed said after winning his 23rd consecutive set at the tournament.

“Grigor is a super talent and is very dangerous. It was a positive match for me.

“I had a good day, I can be happy with what I did on court.

“When you don’t play on clay for almost a year, every win is important for the confidence, especially as I’m coming back from injury.”

Spain’s 17-time Grand Slam champion started his clay season this week after missing a month with another knee problem and has title-holder points to defend here plus Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros.

The king of clay is bidding for a 12th trophy in the principality. His record at the event is a staggering 70-4.

Nadal spent almost an hour in securing the first set but picked up the pace in the second as he ran out the winner.

He next faces Guido Pella, who defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

World No. 1 Djokovic will be playing his ninth quarterfinal here from 13 appearances at his home event.

Djokovic turned in a steady performance with a dozen winners and unforced errors, while his opponent committed nearly 30 unforced errors in 68 minutes.

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 as Daniil Medvedev continued his run of form.

The Russian will next line up against Djokovic after losing to him in January in the Australian Open fourth round.

Tsitsipas was caught on the back foot facing three match points as he trailed 0-40 on his serve late in the second set. After saving the first two, the Greek botched the third to seal his exit after an hour and three-quarters.

Medvedev increased his leading total of ATP season match wins to 20 as a result after he beat Tsitsipas for the fourth time in as many attempts.

“This was a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said. “Everything was perfect today.

“Some wind came up in the second set and I could not get used to it. But in the third, I just worked to put every ball in the court.

“I was pleased to fight back after going a break down in the third set.”

The player who stands a career-high 14th credits his rising form to a renewed dedication to the sport.

“I’ve been working hard for the past 18 months —  since before the start of 2018. I’ve dedicated my life to tennis, which I did not do before,” Medvedev said.

“I had my best season last year — hopefully this year will be better.”

The Russian reached his first quarterfinal at the Masters 1000 level after winning his second match against a Top 10 opponent.

Tsitsipas, runner-up last season to Nadal in Toronto, suffered his eighth defeat of the season against 18 wins and will try and lift his game next week on the clay of Barcelona. 

Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego defeated Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5.