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Duanne Olivier: From Being a Back-Up to Producing a Performance for Ages

Cricketnext Staff |December 28, 2018, 1:32 PM IST
Duanne Olivier: From Being a Back-Up to Producing a Performance for Ages

With frontline pacers Lungi Ngidi and Vernon Philander out injured, Duanne Olivier came into the opening Test of the three-match series against Pakistan as a supposed 'weak link', at best a backup to Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada, someone who Pakistan could target after seeing off the opening bowlers.

However, by the end of Day 2 in Centurion, this 26-year-old right-arm pacer from Bloemfontein had not just overshadowed the likes of Steyn and Rabada, but also made sure his name was on everyone's lips as he ran the Pakistan batsmen ragged to finish with a match-haul of 11/96 - the third-best figures in a Test at Centurion.

But then this begs the question, who is Duanne Olivier and why has he only played six Tests thus far?

Well, the simple answer is: when a side boasts fast bowlers of the likes of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Vernon Philander, to get noticed becomes difficult. You really have to bang the door hard and loud to get heard, and Olivier did just that as he produced a display of breathtaking fast bowling to bring his country close to victory.

While world cricket in general might not have heard much about Olivier, this 26-year-old does have a staggering first-class record and comes with the ability to clock in excess of 140+ kph quite regularly. Hailing from the land which gave the world Allan Donald, Olivier has made rapid strides since making his first-class debut at the age of 19. Overall, he has played 91 first-class games where he has picked up 368 wickets at an impeccable average of 22.25 and a strike-rate of 43.2.

Olivier last played a Test back in October, 2017 against Bangladesh. Not that the pacer had not impressed in whatever chances he got. In five Tests, Oliver had picked up 17 wickets at 23.11 but in a country with an abundance of fast bowling riches, it wasn't enough.

However, 2018 has been a much better year for the pacer. He had an excellent stint with his state side Knights and has also been a regular feature in the South Africa A side. The 26-year-old was then the leading wicket-taker in the inaugural Mzansi Super League 2018 with 20 wickets in 10 outings at an average of 13.20 and was a key reason behind Jozi Stars lifting the title.

Having made his presence felt at the Super League, Olivier made sure he converted his success at the T20 tournament with a bumper performance in the Test circuit. While the formats might have been different, there was not a lot of change in the lengths that he bowled. Aided by a tall frame and a high arm action, Olivier has the knack of extracting sharp bounce and making life tough for batsmen, and that is what he did in both innings of the first Test.

"For me it’s just about contributing towards the team’s success. If you look at my T20 campaign, I bowled similar lengths and lines – it’s just about the mindset. I don’t think too far ahead and I am very happy if I get an opportunity to play – just take it day by day," the pacer had said after his exploits on the opening day of the Test.

Another key feature which Olivier so very well displayed was his temperament. While the Centurion surface was ripe for pacers on the opening morning, it had become much flatter and easy for batsmen by the second afternoon. The Pakistani openers had done an excellent job of keeping Steyn and Rabada at bay and taking their side into the lead.

Olivier, coming into bowl in the ninth over, immediately created impact getting rid of Fakhar Zaman, and then Pakistan's most experienced batsman in Azhar Ali. He then had Imam-ul-Haq and orchestrated a spectacular collapse as the visitors went from 100/1 to be bowled out for 190, to set South Africa a target of 149. The pacer followed up his 6/37 in the first innings with 5/59 in the second.

Like Dale Steyn had said about Olivier prior to the Test, "If he slips under the radar and he comes up trumps with wickets and wins us the game I will not be complaining."

Pretty sure none of the South Africans will be complaining. And while the hosts still have a Test match to win on the third day, Olivier's 11-fer is certain to be not forgotten any time soon.

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