Back then it was more a state of relief that the hoodoo had finally been broken when the team gathered in the centre of the Melbourne Cricket Ground to release years of disappointment with shrieks of joy.
Similar scenes played out in the dark at the Waca in Perth four years ago where the traditional team huddle was the centre of the celebrations after the Proteas had completed ‘The Double’.
And while in Hobart the Proteas once again emerged from the tunnel long after Australia were routed by an innings and 80 runs, to bellow out ‘Umlilo uhlala utshisa’ - the national team song - at the top of their voices. Tthe feature moment was when Man of the Match Kyle Abbott and team media liaison Lerato Malekuto’s broke out into the ‘shuffle’ dance down in the concrete halls of the stadiums.
It simply illustrated two young South Africans enjoying their work and their country’s historic achievement. For Abbott, in particular, it was a seminal moment for the 29-year-old that has been forced to endure his fair amount of disappointment since making a sensational Test debut at Centurion three years ago.
It comes with the territory of being the regular understudy to South Africa’s world-class fast bowling quartet of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel over the years.
However, at any time over the intervening period the temptation to seek greater ‘job security’ elsewhere through either assuming Kolpak status to gain entry to the English County Championship circuit on a long term basis or relocating to New Zealand like so many of Abbott’s contemporaries have in recent times would undoubtedly have been desirable.
“Often. I think the thought always goes through your mind,” Abbott said in response to whether he pondered choosing an alternate rout. “But I have always stuck at it. I just do my work off the field. I never let it get me down. I have had moments, I am only human. Obviously the No 1 prize is to play for your country and I treasure every game and obviously moments like this.”
Every understudy at some point though gets the opportunity to perform on the centre stage and Mondy morning was Abbott’s. In the absence of the injured Steyn, the seam bowler had already delivered a virtuoso performance the previous evening to knock over Joe Burns and the dangerous David Warner - albeit with a touch of good fortune.
The target was now locked down. Eight Australian wickets to snare before the home side reeled in the 120 runs which would force South Africa to bat again.
And while he was accuracy personified, along with new-ball partner Philander from the very first ball of the morning, it was one particular over to Usman Khawaja that set the wheels in motion.
It was such a searching examination of Khawaja’s technique and temperament through both line and length that the classy left-hander was left mentally exhausted by the last ball of the over. Khawaja folded under the pressure and simply fluffed his bat wide outside the off-stump to offer Quinton de Kock a regulation chance behind the stumps.
“Cricket is a ruthless environment, from everything we do, from the simple things as our basics. That’s what we’ve wanted to really improve on in this series, and really fight as hard we can in being ruthless with the small stuff.”
The StarSo often the understudy, 29-year-old Kyle Abbott delivered on the biggest stage for the Proteas to secure the Test series against Australia.
Original source: Abbott's perseverance pays off