Fast bowling hero Kagiso Rabada admitted he had never felt so much pressure in a game after helping South Africa beat India by five runs in the first ODI on Sunday.
Rabada has passed his first big test on the international stage and showed that he has the temperament to develop into a player for the big moments in future. The 20-year-old took two wickets in the final over, including the wicket of Indian captain MS Dhoni, to secure victory for his team after India looked set to chase down the target of 304.
Rabada says he has bowled many nerve-wracking last overs for his school and Gauteng province, but has never experienced this much pressure in his young international career.
‘I’ve never felt that much pressure in a game,’ Rabada said afterwards. ‘Simply because of the magnitude of the players and also the level of cricket – international cricket and the fans. It was a big game, it was very emotional.’
The turning point in India’s chase came at the start of the 47th over when Imran Tahir caught Rohit Sharma off his own bowling. Suresh Raina followed him to the pavilion in the same over when he tried to slam a googly over the midwicket boundary but ended up mis-hitting it towards long on, where JP Duminy took the catch to leave India on 273-5.
India needed 11 runs off the last over with the experienced Dhoni still at the crease.
‘I was speaking AB at that time and said listen, we’ve been bowling back of a length, that’s been the plan, what do you think about yorkers?’ Rabada recalled.
‘He said no, because MS can pounce on those full balls. We were very clear in that last over of what to do. I was bowling to one of the best bowlers in the world and I’ve seen him win games from that position in the past. It was important for me to keep a clear mind. I was lucky to have Hashim [Amla] and AB [De Villiers], actually the whole team, to guide me through the over.
‘The plan worked well, I think that is why the over turned out the way that it did. We wanted to pitch the balls at back of a length and with the pace that we had in our attack it would be harder to bat because the wicket was deteriorating and was also two-paced.’
Dhoni tried to aim a slog across the line, but top edged the ball high in the air and Rabada called for it coolly to take the catch and all but seal the win for his team.
Needing seven off the final two balls, Rabada struck again to have Stuart Binny caught by Hashim Amla. Rabada admitted afterwards that he never thought about the hat-trick as India only managed a single off the final delivery to finish on 298-7.