Abbott, Rabada bowl SA to series victory

  • Sports, Published on: Tuesday 15th November 16 - 8:20pm

Take a bow, Kyle Abbott. Take a bow, Kagiso Rabada. Take a bow, Faf du Plessis and the entire South Africa squad. A month ago, this team arrived in Australia without its captain and best batsman, AB de Villiers, who is at home injured. They lost their best bowler, Dale Steyn, to a serious injury barely a day into the campaign. And yet they have not only beaten Australia in the series, they have crushed them. Humiliated them.

When this series schedule was announced, South Africa were worried that it might be decided by a pink-ball, day-night Test in Adelaide. They need not have feared. In Hobart, they have destroyed Australia by an innings and 80 runs to follow their hefty victory in Perth, and thus have secured a third consecutive series win in Australia. This was a total annihilation, Australia failing even to take the Test to lunch on day four - with a whole day having been lost to rain.

Australia faced only 558 deliveries in this Test, their fourth-lowest tally in a home Test loss, and their lowest since Don Bradman's debut match in 1928. In the first innings they collapsed for 85; at stumps on day three it seemed like they might have found some fight, having reached 2 for 121. But they were about to fold again. From the moment Usman Khawaja edged Abbott behind for 64, Australia lost 8 for 32 in less than 20 overs.

Australia have now lost their past five Tests and their past five ODIs. There will be recriminations and there will be consequences. It was hard to imagine Australia slipping further after the Perth Test, but when they travelled to Hobart they were in every way heading south. There are nine days until the Adelaide Test, and Australia will need every one of them. It is entirely possible significant changes will have been made by the next Test.

On the fourth morning, Australia's batsmen were completely unable to handle the swing, seam and bounce of Abbott and Rabada. In the first innings it was Vernon Philander who claimed a five-wicket haul, but in the second Abbott collected 6 for 77 and Rabada took 4 for 34. The fast bowlers have all stepped up in the most magnificent way since Steyn left the field in Perth with a serious shoulder injury.

They bowled so tightly on day four that Australia added only 40 to their overnight total in 24.1 overs. Philander might not have taken a wicket, but the pressure he built should not be underestimated. Philander bowled 30 dot balls on the fourth morning before Australia finally got a run off him. Steven Smith took 40 minutes to score his first runs of the day. When the wickets started to come, with Khawaja the first to go on 64, they came quickly.

Adam Voges was next, and it is now difficult to imagine him retaining his place for the Adelaide Test. In his past five Tests - against Sri Lanka and South Africa - he has averaged 14.8. In the five before that - against West Indies and New Zealand - he averaged 342. Forget chocolates to boiled lollies, he has gone from chocolates to Brussels sprouts. Here, a confused attempted leave lobbed off his gloves to slip off Abbott.

The debutant Callum Ferguson also fell trying to leave the ball. In his case, it was a lack of bounce that caused the problem, as he tried to sway under what he thought was a Rabada bouncer, but which stayed lower, clipped his gloves and flew away to slip. Ferguson had made 1, and it was a miserable way to end his first Test, having been run out by a direct hit in the first innings for 3.

If a lack of bounce did for Ferguson, Peter Nevill was brought undone by extra bounce, caught at slip when he fended a fierce Rabada bouncer on 6. Two balls later Rabada had Joe Mennie lbw for a duck, and any hope of late Australian resistance disappeared when Smith fell for 31 in Rabada's next over, caught behind to a ball that moved away just slightly.

Then it was just a matter of time. Mitchell Starc edged behind off Abbott and the result was confirmed when Nathan Lyon lobbed a catch to mid-on to give Abbott a six-wicket haul, and nine for the match. Australia had lost inside seven sessions of play, and South Africa had their third straight series win in Australia. And given their changing team, it is hard to imagine any has been sweeter than this.

South Africa 326 (De Kock 104, Bavuma 74, Hazlewood 6-89, Starc 3-79) beat Australia 85 (Smith 48*, Philander 5-21, Abbott 3-41) and 161 (Khawaja 64, Abbott 6-77, Rabada 4-34) by an innings and 80 runs