Loose cannon blasts out hapless Aussies
KAGISO Rabada tore through Australia on day four with a stunning match-winning performance in Port Elizabeth, but the irony is the fast bowler has left South Africa's hopes of going on to win the series in serious jeopardy.
Australia's batsmen had no answer to Rabada as they dropped like flies in a comprehensive six-wicket loss inside four days that has squared the series at 1-1 heading into the third Test in Cape Town next week.
In one extraordinary 11-wicket, send-off laden burst, Rabada found a way to both give the Proteas all the momentum, but then in the same breath cut his team down at the knees with his mindless two-game suspension that has him rubbed out for the rest of the series.
Rabada was named man-of-the-match ahead of AB de Villiers despite his dual disciplinary breaches.
After nearly two full Test matches Australia's bowlers finally found a way to get out AB de Villiers, but from the moment Mitchell Marsh dropped a sitter from Aiden Markram off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood, it was clear the visitors were never a hope of defending the slender target they had set South Africa to win.
As a sign of his pending greatness, Rabada has four 10-wicket hauls to his name from just 28 matches.
That's more than Allan Donald and Makhaya Ntini, while Dale Steyn only has one more (five) from nearly triple the number of games.
But in 18 months he has been charged five times for disciplinary breaches, including two in the Port Elizabeth Test that have rubbed him out for the deciding matches of the series in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Rabada was hit with a grade two for physically shouldering into Steve Smith when he got the Australian captain out in the first innings, and then doubled down to give David Warner a bake to his face in the second dig - attracting a grade one penalty.
The void he will leave is monumental.
On day four Rabada blazed through Australia's tail to finish with six wickets to go with his five from the first dig and restricted the tourists to a lead of just 100, after they had resumed 41 ahead and five down.
In reply, Marsh put down a chance with the scoreboard reading just 0-7.
Marsh was fielding at slip because he has a minor groin strain but has 10 days until the next Test.
It was an error Australia could ill afford.
But what will South Africa do in Cape Town without Rabada?
An underdone Dale Steyn may be forced into a risky early return from a heel injury, or selectors may have to backflip on their decision to drop Morne Morkel.
Either way, South Africa has lost their powerhouse.
South African teammates have slammed their loose cannon spearhead for the erratic behaviour which has sabotaged their hopes of victory.
Bowling legend Michael Holding is fed up with ugly send-offs and sledging and has declared it's time to red card offending players out of the game.
Rabada's shocking discipline has dismayed West Indian great Holding who has served as somewhat of a mentor to the 22-year-old tearaway being compared to Malcolm Marshall.
Holding has called on umpires to start using the 'red and yellow card' system introduced by the International Cricket Council late last year in a bid to clean up the game following a series in South Africa which has given the sport a black eye.
Under the new code, umpires have the power to send unruly players from the field, either temporarily or for the match, as well as award penalty runs to the opposition.
Holding said it was time for match officials to crack down on the field and call on the full range of powers at their disposal.
He's adamant that if yellow and red cards are threatened and then dished out, players would immediately respond and button their lips.
Holding said the penny has to drop for Rabada to realise his potential as a fast bowler of rare class.
"When people behave like that, you just wonder, why, why is that necessary?," Holding said.
Proteas star AB de Villiers said Rabada needed to pull his head in.
"He's got to be smarter and he knows that. I don't know what is going to happen to him after this Test but if he is around for the next Test match I think he would have learnt from his mistakes," said de Villiers.
Australian fast bowling coach David Saker admits a Rabada suspension would make a seismic change in the series going into the last two Tests in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
"It'd be handy for us not to have to face him, that's for sure," Saker said.
"He's been probably one of the outstanding bowlers of the series so far and with his pace and the way he strikes, I think his strike rate's one of the better ones in the world.
"It would be beneficial if we didn't have to face him but that's in the hands of other people so we'll let that play its course.
"South Africa will look at that and put things in place, you would think. That's not our problem, I'll let SA deal with that one."