Published on February 5th, 2018 | by Sakshi Gupta0
South Africa’s openers need to pull up their socks🕓 Reading time: 4 minutes
The South African openers are not firing the way they should be. They have been very shaky recently.
If it is hard on South Africa for going 0-2 down, it is even harder the manner in which they have performed in the last two matches.
Let’s get some perspective here: Virat Kohli scored 112 during India’s successful chase in the opening ODI at Durban. Whereas, the entire South African side were bowled out for a cheap total of 118 in the subsequent ODI at Centurion. Considering the form the Indian skipper has been of late, he had almost ensured the match got over before lunch. However, because of some bizarre rules of the ICC, the umpires called for lunch when India were just two runs away from victory.
After a long annoying break, the players were back on the field to finish the match. India completed the match in the next nine balls as India won by nine wickets and Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan remained unbeaten on 46 and 51. In the ODIs, both the teams are given 50 overs each to bat, but this match was wrapped up in 52.5 overs. This showed how poorly the hosts played against a dominant Kohli’s Indian boys.
Firstly, the South Africans suffered a major blow even before the series started when their arguably best ODI player AB de Villiers was ruled out with a finger injury. Then the major difference between the two sides in the series has been the forms of their respective top and middle orders. In short, while the Indians had a batsman stepping up in case one failed, but that was not the case for the hosts in the first two matches. The openers play a crucial role, irrespective of the format; the run flow always goes in an ease if the openers give the team the required start because that helps the rest of the players to come out with relatively less pressure.
Problems at the top
Talking of the South African openers, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock have failed in two consecutive matches so far in this ODI series. Amla and de Kock has scores of 16, 34 in the first ODI and 23 and 20 in the second game. In the Durban ODI, South African skipper Faf du Plessis handled the situation after they lost the openers early. His knock of 112-ball 120 helped the hosts to reach a respectable total of 269 runs in 50 overs. Not only did South Africa end up losing, they also faced another blow when the captain was ruled out of the series with a finger injury, coincidentally, a similar one to de Villiers’ injury.
In the absence of the two senior players, du Plessis and de Villiers, the responsibility doubled on the Amla and de Kock’s shoulders to perform with the bat. However, these two were disappointing again and this time around there was no du Plessis in the middle to rescue his side. On fast and bouncy tracks, a young Indian spinner Yuzvendra Chahal laid his spin web and became the second Indian bowler to clinch a five-for in South Africa.
The senior batsman, Amla at least had a decent Test series where he scored 203 runs at an average of 33.83 in three Tests, but the wicketkeeper-batsman de Kock had a bad Test series as well. In the six innings he batted in the Test series, de Kock did not reach the 50-run mark even once and was dismissed for a single-digit score of four times which was inclusive of two ducks. Just a few months back when Bangladesh toured South Africa, de Kock was the Player of the Series with 287 runs in three ODIs at a splendid average of 143.50.
Quinton de Kock has scored a total of 212 runs in his last 14 innings across all three formats.
— stuart hess (@shockerhess) February 4, 2018
For a young player like de Kock, the confidence factor matters a lot. After a poor Test series where he averaged 11.83, the wicketkeeper-batsman is short of the positive spirit at the moment. In the first ODI, when the umpire gave de Kock out off Chahal’s delivery, instead of discussing with du Plessis regarding the DRS, de Kock opted to instantly leave for the pavilion. The replays later showed that the ball was missing the leg stump and a DRS review would have given de Kock a new life. However, de Kock’s lack of confidence cost him a second chance, that could have been game-changing for him.
The very first ball de Kock faced in the second match rolled back on the stumps but the batsman had the sheer luck that the bails didn’t fall. That moment should have bolstered his intent and spirit, but that did not happen. He sure got a start in the match, but never went past it. He got out with a pull shot against a short-ball, the fashion of the dismissal showed only distraction and apprehension, which were no good signs.
Quinton de Kock left the pitch a short while ago – clutching his one hand. He is now sitting in the Proteas dressing room. Hashim Amla is also not training at the moment here at Supersport Park in Centurion. pic.twitter.com/lm9vg6Ka2Z
— #PERCY (@Percyoung) February 3, 2018
The thing with de Kock is that South Africa do not have established candidates to compete with the former. However, they have de Kock’s Titans teammate Heinrich Klaasen, who could be a likely replacement but South Africa would not want to experiment with an uncapped player in a huge series against India. In that case, they have to keep telling themselves that de Kock is “X-factor” player and at some point of time he will fight back. They just have to be patient before that, regardless of the impact that his failures have been getting into the side.
Nevertheless, South Africa would not persist with de Kock forever if he keeps performing poorly. At some point of time, they will have to make a harsh decision and before that day comes, de Kock needs to justify the faith the captain and team have been showing in him.