A fired-up Kagiso Rabada roared through Australia — stoking the animosity between the teams on the way — as South Africa bowled the tourists out for 243 on day one of the second Test on Friday. Rabada took five wickets in 18 balls in a blistering spell just before and after Tea at St. George's Park, sending the Australians slumping from 161/3. They were saved from a worse fate when Tim Paine made 36 and put on 61 with Australia's last two batsmen.
Rabada took three of his wickets in an over and removed Australian batsmen on the last ball before Tea and first ball after it to suddenly turn the tide in the home team's favour with some fast reverse swing bowling.
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"We didn't identify the big, key moment with Rabada reversing the ball," Australia's Nathan Lyon said. "When you've got a world-class bowler like Rabada bowling at you in a spell like that, we've got to be better and we've got to be sharper. Hats off to Rabada, he out-bowled us today."
The quick bowler may also have added to the ill-feeling between the teams, which burst into plain view with a confrontation between Australia's David Warner and South Africa's Quinton de Kock near the dressing rooms in the first Test at Durban.
After dismissing Steve Smith on Friday in Port Elizabeth, Rabada appeared to intentionally bump into the Australia captain with his shoulder. The incident has the potential to see Rabada banned for the rest of the series. The International Cricket Council takes a dim view of any unnecessary physical contact on the field.
At stumps, South Africa was 39/1 after batting through 12 overs at the end of the day, losing Aiden Markram for 11. Rabada, following up on his bowling heroics, helped South Africa with 17 not out as nightwatchman.
Warner, under scrutiny following the unsavoury incident with de Kock, made 63 at the top of the order only for Australia to slip up badly in the second session, when it lost five wickets for 72 having been 98/1 at lunch.
Bancroft fell on the brink of lunch for 38. Usman Khawaja (4), Warner, Smith (25), Shaun Marsh (24) and Mitchell Marsh (4) were out in the second session. Rabada came back after Tea to remove Pat Cummins first ball and followed up with the wicket of Mitchell Starc for figures of 5/96.
Fellow pacemen Lungi Ngidi had three wickets and Vernon Philander two.
Both Warner and de Kock received fines and disciplinary sanctions after their altercation in Durban. Four days on, the fallout continued, with Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland releasing a statement before play started in Port Elizabeth reminding the Australian players they needed to behave. Match referee Jeff Crowe also called the captains and managers to a meeting on the eve of the second test in an attempt to calm the situation.
Sutherland's message, however, hadn't been digested by the Australian players.
"I haven't read it," Lyon said, adding he wasn't aware there was a message. "I don't think anyone's read it, to be honest."
Warner's and de Kock's confrontation wasn't the only heated moment in the opening Test, which was characterized by an aggressive fielding display by Australia and verbal exchanges between the teams that carried on off the field. The umpires appeared to be keeping a much closer eye on any on-field chat in Port Elizabeth.
"After the last game it was always going to be a bit sensitive," Philander said.
Warner was back in the spotlight straightaway, coming through a tricky opening spell when the tourists scored just 18 runs in the first 13 overs after winning the toss and choosing to bat. They picked off the runs after that measured start, with Warner accelerating by hitting nine fours.
South Africa made an important breakthrough when Warner was bowled by Ngidi to follow Khawaja back to the dressing rooms after lunch. Smith and Shaun Marsh put on 44 before Rabada's day-changing spell when Australia tumbled from 161/3 to 182/8.
He had Smith and Shaun Marsh out lbw, with both failing with reviews, and Mitchell Marsh was caught behind by de Kock attempting an expansive drive at an inopportune moment just before Tea. Cummins also edged behind and Starc was clean bowled, with Rabada aiming a comment at the Australian as he went on his way.