Workload could push Rabada to breaking point

Kagiso Rabada appeals AFP

South Africa face a dilemma over the workload on Kagiso Rabada early in a year crammed with commitments for the young fast bowler.

Rabada, who took 2 for 31 in Hamilton, missed the match in Christchurch due to a slight problem with his left knee, but had an extensive bowl at the Basin Reserve on Friday with the knee taped. He has been carefully managed in the early days of this tour, also sitting out the T20 at Eden Park, having played all five matches the preceding one-day series against Sri Lanka.

There will be a significant number of overs for Rabada in the months ahead. After this one-day series there are three Tests against New Zealand, followed a by the IPL for which Rabada landed a INR 5 crore (USD 750,000 approx) deal with Delhi Daredevils. Then comes the Champions Trophy and a marquee four-Test series against England. Throwing further ahead, South Africa's 2017-18 home season will their busiest ever.

If South Africa had managed to haul themselves over the line at Hagley Oval there is a decent chance Rabada would have been wrapped in cotton wool for the remainder of the one-day series. That could still be the case, with South Africa keen to assess their other bowling options before the Champions Trophy, but his cutting edge would be missed.

"He has been stalwart for us for a while now," JP Duminy said. "He has been our main strike bowler in most formats and it's always a great strength for us to have him in our attack. It will be good to see him back."

In 2016, Rabada sent down almost two hundred overs more than any other South Africa bowler across all formats - 431.3 overs, with Kyle Abbott next on 239.1 - and made the joint-most appearances with 32 alongside Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis.

South Africa also have to meet quota targets over a season which includes an average of two Black African players in an XI. Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo are part of the one-day squad, while Temba Bavuma will be alongside Rabada in the Test side.

Although Rabada's return would strengthen South Africa's attack, they have pinpointed the batting - and a failure of anyone to play a major innings - as the reason they could not chase down 290 in Christchurch. The top six all reached double figures, but de Kock's 57 was the top score and he fell to an ill-judged leg-side heave.

Dwaine Pretorius, at No. 7, almost turned the game with his 27-ball 50 and with Phehlukwayo down at No. 10 there was enviable depth to the order, but Duminy said that does not always translate into success.

"It can sometimes be a bad thing. Even though we bat deep it doesn't mean the top order shouldn't take responsibility. It's a great thing to have but there's still a lot of responsibility from the top six or seven to make sure we put in those performances for the team."

However, he was not overly concerned about South Africa's first reversal in 13 ODIs and suggested it was a timely reminder of the level of performance they need to achieve.

"It was kind of inevitable at some point we'd lose a game. It's something we have spoken about, that it doesn't put us in any different situation in terms of where we're trying to go as a team, our preparation and our goals. We're trying to work towards the Champions Trophy and it's probably a good thing to go through a few losses along the way to bring us back down to earth and understand there are certain things we still have to improve on."