Rabada gets in Warner’s face as SAfrica controls 2nd test

March 11, 2018

South Africa's Faf du Plessis, left, celebrates with his team after taking the wicket of Australia's Usman Khawaja on the third day of the second cricket test between South Africa and Australia at St. George's Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Sunday, March 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan)

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — David Warner was in the midst of the action once again, this time on the receiving end of another over-the-top celebration from fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, as Australia fought to stay in the second test in South Africa on Sunday.

Speedster Rabada bowled Warner for 13 for the first breakthrough in Australia’s second innings, then let loose a scream right in the face of the high-profile Australia batsman, as South Africa started to take a stranglehold on the match on Day 3 in Port Elizabeth.

Rabada took two more wickets, including a crucial late breakthrough to get Usman Khawaja out for 75 seven minutes before stumps. Australia finished on 180-5 and with a small lead of 41 runs with just five wickets left.

The four-test series is at a key point, with Australia 1-0 up but facing a South African fightback at St. George’s Park. That began with a century by AB de Villiers, constructed on Day 2 and completed early on Sunday, which gave the home team the initial advantage of a 139-run first-innings lead.

“It felt like we were embarrassed in a way on our home soil (in the first test) so we just felt like it was time for us to really get up for it and turn it around,” de Villiers said.

Khawaja nearly saw out the day, while Mitchell Marsh also fought bravely to make 39 not out while still recovering from a stomach bug he had on the first day of the game.

South Africa has control, though.

Sunday began with de Villiers making a 22nd test century with his 126 not out taking South Africa to 382 all out for the big lead. He was the anchor in late partnerships of 44 with Quinton de Kock, 84 with Vernon Philander (36) and 58 off just 43 balls with Keshav Maharaj (30).

Rabada followed up South Africa’s success with the bat to take 3-38 and improve his match haul to eight wickets, but he also put himself in the sights of the match officials for the second time this test.

The 22-year-old fast bowler, recently ranked the No. 1 bowler in test cricket, already faced a disciplinary hearing for bumping into Australia captain Smith after dismissing him in the first innings. Rabada is in danger of receiving a two-test ban — ruling him out for the rest of the series — if he is found guilty of making contact with Smith intentionally.

Rabada had his hearing for that incident after the third day’s play and the International Cricket Council is expected to announce a decision on Monday.

“Well it’ll be handy for us not to have to face him, that’s for sure,” said Australia assistant coach David Saker. “He’s probably been one of the outstanding bowlers of the series so far with his pace and the way he strikes.”

Rabada’s excessive send-offs of Smith and Warner were two more on a list of contentious moments in an ill-tempered series so far.

Warner was at the center of an aggressive fielding display by the Australians in the first test in Durban, where his verbal battle with South Africa’s Quinton de Kock boiled over with an ugly confrontation between the two on a staircase near the dressing rooms.

Three players — Warner, teammate Nathan Lyon and de Kock — were charged with misconduct and sanctioned for their misbehavior in the first game. Rabada could be next to be punished.

While South Africa’s best young bowler was both good and bad, its best batsman was sublime.

De Villiers hit 20 fours and a six in his century, going to 100 with a ramp shot over the slips and down to the boundary. He reached 100 off just 117 balls, a free-flowing innings that made batting look much easier than it really was.

De Villiers also passed 8,500 test runs, the fourth South African after Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla to do that.

The 34-year-old de Villiers, one of the outstanding players of his generation, is nearing the end of his test career and there’s speculation that this might even be his last series.

It was de Villiers’ first test century since January 2015 having taken nearly two years out of test cricket in an effort to refresh himself and prolong his career. He returned to tests late last year.

“I was so relieved,” de Villiers said. “I was very nervous in the 90s. I don’t think it showed but I was telling Vern (Philander) out there ‘I’m struggling to breathe here.’ My legs literally went numb. It’s funny when a guy who’s played for 13, 14 years says that but it’s true. It really meant a lot to me to get that hundred.”

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