The wholesale changes to South Africa’s XI for the fourth ODI against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground were unable to necessitate victory, but at least pushed the talent, promise and importance of Kyle Abbott.
Afforded the new ball in the absence of Vernon Philander and earmarked as Dale Steyn’s leading sidekick after Morne Morkel was dropped, Abbott shed the second-choice shackles – perhaps once and for all.
Friday’s performance came as a watershed for Abbott, who has all but pushed himself ahead of Morkel, Philander and Wayne Parnell in the ODI pecking order.
A remarkably economical opening spell, which also featured the fall of David Warner, paved the way for a solid return to the attack later in the piece.
At the death of the fixture, too, when Parnell and Ryan McLaren were copping expense to all corners of the MCG, Abbott remained resolute in appropriate line and length.
Steven Smith and James Faulkner, well versed in punishing the rubbish coughed up by McLaren and company, respected Abbott entirely.
Mark Boucher was full of praise for Abbott after the match, insisting the 27-year-old will command a place in the first-choice limited-overs XI from here on in.
No longer just the guy called on when others are injured, Abbott’s arrival brings a welcome dynamic to a seam attack incorrectly hell-bent on pitching the ball short. Full and straight, as the Australian attack and Abbott showed, though, often wins the race.