Abbott called up for Cape Town Test
Kyle Abbott, the Dolphins fast bowler who took seven for 29 in his only Test against Pakistan last February, has been called up to the South Africa squad for the Cape Town Test against Australia. Abbott replaces Wayne Parnell, who will not recover from the groin strain he sustained during the second Test in time for the third Test. South Africa's other injury concern, Ryan McLaren, who missed the Port Elizabeth Test with concussion, is fully fit and available for selection.
South Africa have also retained Quinton de Kock as batting cover, even though Alviro Petersen's virus has cleared and have Rory Kleinveldt in the squad. With so much at their disposal, Abbott was taken aback with his inclusion and admitted he will be equally shocked if he makes the starting XI.
"I was surprised when I got the call. I thought with the make up of the side; they are looking for all-rounders," Abbott told ESPNcricinfo. "I've learnt quickly not to expect things. It's quite difficult sometimes because you hear a lot of chatter. I'm not expecting to play. Rory Klienveldt is also in the squad and I understand there is a pecking order. It's just an honour to be involved in the series decider."
Despite Abbott's impressive debut, when he played because of an injury to Jacques Kallis, finishing last season's first-class competition as the top wicket-taker with 49 scalps at 15.36 and this summer's domestic twenty-over tournament second on the charts with 16 wickets at 18.62, Abbott missed out on selection for the World T20 squad and a central contract. He did not let those two snubs get him down.
"I understand they've made cutbacks with the contracts," Abbott said. "I'm still young and I am only going to mature as a cricketer. If I'm not playing for South Africa, I'll still give the Dolphins all my commitment."
The Durban-based franchise have enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent memory, thanks to Abbott's form and the acquisition of Morne van Wyk from the Knights. They won the twenty-over cup - their first non-shared trophy since the franchise system was put in place in the 2004-05 summer - and were beaten in the playoff for the final of the one-day cup.
Abbott said he hasn't made any adjustments to his game and has instead concentrated on fine-tuning what he was already good at: swing. "Myself and Lance (Klusener, the Dolphins coach) have been working on the same things because I don't think you can change things and expect the same results," he said. "I treat every Dolphins game like it's an international game. I just keep things simple so I don't have 10 different things on my mind when I am bowling."
Those same things have taken Abbott to the top of the current first-class competition wicket-takers list. He has 22 wickets at 13.09 - including 12 for 125 in the last match the Dolphins played, against the Cobras in Paarl last weekend, in a match where his swing bowling came to the fore. Abbott has a better first-class record at Newlands (16 wickets at 12.43) than Kleinveldt (57 wickets at 27.45) or McLaren (9 wickets at 33.33) and with his form, that may give him the edge in the match.
If he is picked, Abbott already has plan for his approach in the must-win game. "I've watched a lot of the series on television and it's been everything people expected it to be. The only disappointment is that there aren't two more Tests. It's been great entertainment and it's really got me hungry," he said. "If I do play, I know Newlands is not like Centurion but it is a coastal wicket so it will have something for the seamers. I will just be very patient and make bloody sure batsmen will have to work hard to get a run off me. Whatever movement there is through the air, I will find it. That's my skill," he said.
And if he doesn't play in Cape Town, Abbott knows it won't be the end of the world. He has four more rounds of the first-class competition to play in before heading to Hampshire for the English summer. South Africa have also announced fixtures in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the next few months and Abbott may find himself with an opportunity to play in those as well.
"I've signed a county deal which is quite exciting but I have clauses that the county have to release me if I get picked for South Africa," he said. "Hampshire know that if I get a call up, I am on the first plane out. Every franchise cricketer wants to play for their country. That's human. You're always trying to get to higher levels."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent