SK Elite: Kagiso Rabada's sensational ODI debut against Bangladesh
It is not often that South Africa have managed to put one past the Australians in a World Cup match. But in 2014, in the under-19 World Cup, a young lanky seamer ran in and blew the Aussie kids away with his pace, seam movement, swing and bounce. He had everything; all that was expected from a fast bowler.
Kagiso Rabada's 6/25 against the Australians were the best figures by any bowler in the tournament. He claimed 14 wickets in the World Cup, finishing second in the wicket-takers' chart. An economy of 3.10 underlined the fact that Rabada was a man playing against the boys.
Soon enough, the terrifying seamer was grabbing wickets by the handful in domestic cricket. He was handed his T20 debut in November 2014 but it was in his ODI debut almost a year later that Rabada made the world sit up and take notice of him. In February that year, the seamer picked up a mesmerising 14/105 for the Lions in a franchise match, the best figures since the inception of franchise cricket in South Africa.
By July, when South Africa were set to tour Bangladesh, Rabada's debut was all but granted. On July 10, 2015 at Dhaka, the phenomenal Lions seamer stole all headlines with a jaw-dropping 6/16 on debut that included a hat-trick. At the time, he was just the second ODI debutant to take a hat-trick, after Bangladesh's Taijul Islam. (Wanidu Hasaranga did it for Sri Lanka this year and became the third such player). His figures were the best ever by an ODI debutant and also the best ever by any South African.
Rabada, selected ahead of the experienced Morne Morkel, started off with a two-run over in a rain-shortened affair where Bangladesh opted to bat.
In the fourth ball of the second over, Rabada found a way to beat Tamim Iqbal’s defence and the ball went on to rattle the stumps, giving him his maiden ODI wicket.
The wicket-keeper batsman, Liton Das, walked out at no.3, and was greeted with a loosener on his pads. But the diminutive batsman flicked the ball in the air and straight to the mid-wicket fielder to gift Rabada another wicket.
On the hat-trick ball, the youngster faced off against the experienced Mahmudullah. Rabada ran in hard and delivered a good length ball right on middle-stump. The extra zip on the surface and Rabada's pace meant that Mahmudullah missed his leg-side nudge completely. Rabada appealed vehemently as did his teammates and the umpire raised his finger to send the youngster into a dizzy celebration.
He almost got rid of Soumya Sarkar in the next over but had his man an over later when he chipped a shot to Duminy at cover. Bangladesh lost four and all four had gone Rabada's way. He returned to the attack with Bangladesh tottering at 124/7 and grabbed two more to cap off his debut with stunning figures of 6/16.
Mortaza was his fifth victim, edging a ball going down leg to Quinton de Kock and Jubair Hossain soon followed, receiving a corker of a yorker from the lanky seamer. Since the match was reduced to 40 overs, Rabada could bowl only a maximum of eight overs. If he had two more overs, the seamer might well have returned a seven-for. It was a stuff of dreams for the outstanding fast bowler.
"I couldn't have dreamt of a better start," Rabada had said later as revealed by ESPNCricinfo. "I feel like I have worked hard for it. I don't think I would wake up from the dream if I pinched myself.”
Even all-rounder Albie Morkel, a former South African cricketer was stunned after watching the rampant, young Rabada. "I have never seen a bowler like that at his age. I saw Steyn come through the ranks but Rabada is something else, something very special. He has serious height and bounce and is a very unique natural talent - you can't coach what he has got."