Lance Klusener has the best figures on test debut for South Africa, 8-64 against India way back in 1997. His latest protégé came very close to surpassing those figures, but Kyle Abbott’s 7-29 would appear to be a very good second. Both will be remembered for resounding victories.
Few men have made quite such an impression on their first encounter with international cricket. Not that it matters, but even fewer have made such an impression away from the public stage. Behind the scenes, at the post-day press conference, Abbott was the most charming man many had seen for years. Honest, humorous and self-deprecating.
When AB de Villiers was asked whether he had faced Abbott at domestic level, he seemed unsure: “I can’t recall….can you?” he asked Abbott alongside. “Unfortunately I can,” replied 25-year-old Abbott. “You played me with a blindfold.”
“Friedel de Wet played a season with us and he said ‘give 100% but expect nothing in return, that’s the way to handle it. A week ago I’d have given myself no chance of playing test cricket, although it’s always in the back of your mind. Now, being with the No 1 team in the world, seeing how they go about their preparation, it’s been an amazing experience.
“I haven’t had any sleep for the last two days so my mind is functioning, so it’s only now that my palms have stopped sweating and I don’t have this knot in my stomach. It will start to sink in gradually, I suppose, but at the moment it still seems quite surreal.
“It was at optional practice on Thursday, which I believe Jacques never goes to normally, that he pulled his calf. Gary pulled me aside and said there was a chance I might play but I thought ‘no, he’s an old campaigner, he’s going to pull through this.’
“Then Gary called me late in the afternoon and said it was happening. But it was like the call from Andrew Hudson to say I was in the squad, you don’t quite believe it. It wasn’t until we were in the bus going to the ground that you think ‘shew, I’m actually involved in this thing.’ It’s been an unbelievable occasion and an unbelievable couple of days.”
“When Hudders called on Tuesday morning to tell me I was in the squad, it was 7am and, because I didn’t have his number saved, I just put the phone on silent and carried on sleeping. About 45 minutes later I heard the voice message and thought ‘oh. I better call back quickly!’ It was a scary moment, but a very happy one.
“Lance has been amazing for me. He hasn’t tried to change anything technical, just a mental approach to bowling. Trying to hit the deck a bit harder, not going through the motions which I had done for a couple of years. He has given me the push and kick up the backside which I needed.
“He called me on Thursday night and I told him I was playing. He said ‘oh, right, good. Keep it tidy.’ If he’d given me any last-minute advice I don’t think it would have sunk in, so that was great. I was just trying to prepare for the next day.”
“Bowling with the No 1 and No 2 at the other end was amazing. They bowled as well, if not much better than me, I just benefited from the pressure that was created. Those two have shown their class over the last 18 months and it could have been anyone’s day, but luckily it was mine,” Abbott said.
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