Kagiso Rabada likened his emotions after his first five-for in Test cricket since March 2018 to the feeling a batsman has when he scores a hundred after a lean patch. However, he maintained that not much had changed about his bowling in the last three years.
"You measure the highest accolades in cricket by scoring hundreds and taking five-fors and ten-fors," Rabada said after the first Test in St Lucia. "It's something you always strive to do. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened for me in recent years but I'm glad that's happened today. The only thing you can judge yourself on is being consistent in your preparation. It's like scoring a hundred. Who wouldn't be happy with scoring a hundred? I am really glad with the performance I put in."
Rabada's 5 for 34 saw South Africa wrap up an innings win over West Indies in less than two-and-a-half days; a victory built on a strong first-innings showing with the ball when they dismissed West Indies for 97. The architect of that performance was Rabada's new-ball partner Lungi Ngidi, who took 5 for 19 to record his second five-for in Test cricket and first since debut in January 2018, and Rabada indicated he saw Ngidi's success coming in the nets.
"Lungi bowled extremely well, right from the training camp that we held in Centurion [before travelling to the West Indies]," Rabada said. "He had the ball on a string. He was bowling really good lines and lengths. His wrist was in a good position and he just seemed extremely determined. We are looking for that same intensity as a team through the coming years."
Though it would seem premature for South Africa to look at this as a stepping stone to the future after just one Test win - only their fourth under Mark Boucher and first away from home since 2017 - after their slide to No. 7 in the Test rankings, they have to start somewhere. Rabada sees this result as a possible turning point for the team under new captain Dean Elgar, who turned 34 during this Test.
"We're a young team and we are rebuilding," he said. "Even our most experienced players are young, like myself and Quinny [de Kock]. Dean is our most experienced but for me, at 26, to be one of the most experienced paints a picture of how young we are as a team. It's going to give us massive confidence not only moving into the next Test match but moving into the next few years. We can't take anything for granted but just take all the positives that we've done in this Test match and keep building on those. This win has given us a lot of confidence."
Bowling brilliantly after losing the toss, West Indies' abject batting and Quinton de Kock's hundred were the main reasons for South Africa's win but Rabada also put it down to being able to identify and act in key moments better than they have done before.
"In the previous games we played, myself included, we were lacking at important times of the game and somehow just let the game slip away. We were good in batches, but at times we could get quite sloppy. In this Test match, we just kept our foot on the throttle and we identified those moments where we felt in the past we slacked off. We know it's not going to get any easier, it's about consistency."
Having been part of some of South Africa's highest highs such as beating Australia home and away and their lowest lows, like losing to Sri Lanka home and away, Rabada hopes things will stabilise and results will keep improving. "We've got so much potential in our team. In this Test match it came out. We're hoping for more of the same. It has happened in the past and we are hoping for more of the same in the future."