Quinton de Kock became the holder of South Africa’s second-highest individual score in ODI cricket with a career-best 178 as his side eased to a series opening victory over Australia. De Kock steered South Africa to the third-highest successful chase at SuperSport Park and ensured they drew first blood in a weekend of clashes against Australia. Sandwiched between ODIs on Friday and Sunday is a Rugby Championship fixture on Saturday. All the matches take place on the Highveld, de Kock’s stomping ground, and on Friday night, he owned it.
None of the Australian bowlers were spared de Kock’s aggression. He took on pace and spin, anything on the pads or overpitched, the short ball and the wide ball. His was an innings that started with impeccable timing and placement and turned into belligerent bludgeoning, especially on the leg side. More than two-thirds of de Kock’s runs came in that area, including nine of his eleven sixes and he made Australia’s 294 appear utterly inadequate.
On a fairly flat pitch and a fast outfield, Australia should have breached 300 and, given their start, could have been eyeing many more. Australia were 88 for 1 in the 13th over before Andile Phehlukwayo pulled them back. He took 3 for 16 in four overs and finished with a career-best 4 for 44 in just his second ODI to lead a seam attack whose experience trio of Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell and Kagiso Rabada all had off days.
The South African seamers’ inconsistencies in length suited Australia’s almost-reckless approach. Five of their top six got starts but only George Bailey converted his. He scored a third half-century in four innings and shared in a 79-run seventh wicket stand with John Hastings, whose fifty was his first in international cricket, to take Australia close to 300 but not close enough to challenge South Africa.
De Kock was authoritative from the start. He flicked a Hastings delivery on the legs into the stands and followed up with a flog through point to announce his intent. South Africa’s fifty came up inside seven overs and Rilee Rossouw, de Kock’s opening partner who filled in for an ill Hashim Amla, had only contributed 17 of those runs.
Rossouw did not remain an understudy for too long. He plundered three boundaries off each of Mitchell Marsh and Scott Boland to catch up to de Kock and the pair were on 43 each, with the score on 87 after 10 overs.
De Kock’s fifty came first, off 38 balls, with a pull off Travis Head. Rossouw’s followed in much quieter fashion, a single, but it came off the 36th ball. At 120 without loss after 15 overs, Australia were all but out of the contest and they had not even introduced their best bowler.
Adam Zampa was brought on in the 18th over, after Rossouw and de Kock had destroyed Scott Boland’s figures by taking 18 runs off his fourth over, and had immediate success. Zampa’s first ball was a legbreak, Rossouw brought out the reverse sweep and was trapped in front.
De Kock was on 82 when Rossouw was dismissed and had got there by playing the ball late and using deft, albeit powerful touches, but when Faf du Plessis joined him, he switched gears. He thumped a low full toss from Daniel Worrall to mid off, in a rare example of playing a shot down the ground instead of square, and then reached his hundred, off 74 balls, with an almighty pull over midwicket.
Zampa came under attack as well and de Kock took three boundaries off his fourth over and three sixes off the first three balls of his sixth, With each one, there was a suspicion de Kock might emulate Herschelle Gibbs’ six sixes in an over. Gibbs was part of the commentary team, and looked on as de Kock went past his own highest score of 175 by drilling Marsh through the covers. Those were the last runs de Kock scored before holing out, 11 runs short of overtaking Gary Kirsten, who holds South Africa’s highest individual score of 188.
It was left to Farhaan Behardien and David Miller to finish off after du Plessis and JP Duminy were dismissed cheaply. The wickets won’t matter much to South Africa after they won with 13.4 overs to spare.
De Kock’s performance completely overshadowed Phehlukwayo, but he emerged as South Africa’s best bowler on the night. He broke through at a crucial time, when Aaron Finch flicked a short ball to fine leg where Wayne Parnell caught it low down.. Four deliveries later, Phehlukwayo had Steve Smith trapped lbw, missing an attempted glance. And three overs after that, had Marsh caught behind by a diving de Kock.
Imran Tahir, the only other South African to concede at under six runs an over, had Travis Head stumped by a googly and Australia were five-down just over halfway in their innings and in danger of not batting out their overs. Bailey’s fifty was his third in four innings while Hastings’ was his first against a South African attack that, Phehlukwayo and Tahir aside, struggled for consistency.
That may not be South Africa’s main concern ahead of the Sunday game though. Instead, they will be closely monitoring Steyn. Although he bowled his full complement of overs, Steyn left the field twice and was seen clutching the shoulder he broke last summer several times. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)