“At times, all it takes is just a push, just one innings to get the momentum going when a player is going through a rough patch. Can this innings be that push for De Kock”?
There is something special about Quinton de Kock, the way he plays his cricket is gratifying and eye-pleasing. He is one of the murderous wicketkeeper-batsmen in contemporary cricket. A man of few words and rather lets his bat do the talking. De Kock has been one of the pillars of strength of South Africa across formats and has done well with the bat as well as behind the stumps.
De Kock is a fearless stroke-maker and has the ability to take on the best of bowling attacks. Talking about Test cricket, his presence in the middle-order has been crucial for South Africa, he scores those runs at a brisk pace and changes the course of the game.
De Kock was sitting at the second position in the list of most Test runs scored by a wicketkeeper-batsman in 2016 after Jonny Bairstow. With 695 runs from 13 innings, De Kock had a staggering average of 63.18 and he got all those runs at a blistering strike-rate. De Kock had a fair run in 2017, averaging 36.41 with 619 runs from 19 innings, but the real concern generated in the second half of that year.
After that 68 in Nottingham against England, De Kock’s willow remained silent in the next eight innings. The fact that the southpaw failed to fire against not very threatening bowling attacks of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe sparked concerns. De Kock’s most loyal fans expected the new year to revive his fortunes and rediscover his lost mojo against India at home, but it wasn’t to be.
De Kock failed to cross the 50-run mark in six innings against India with his highest score being just 43 at Cape Town. At the end of India series, De Kock had scored just 178 runs in last 13 innings at 14.83. His fortunes didn’t change in shorter formats as well, where he was ruled out of the remainder of the fixtures due to a mistimed injury after just two ODIs. He loves batting against India and his ODI average of 72 (barring the 2018 series) corroborates the belief, but this whole series was different for the southpaw.
Coming to Durban, South Africa needed De Kock to rediscover his lost mojo and rhythm. Against a quality attack of Australia, the home side needed to go all guns blazing and could not have afforded any weak link in the line-up. Australia got a competitive total of 351 in the first innings. South Africa’s batting floundered for 162, De Kock had only 20 runs to his name as his lean patch continued.
Come second innings, Australia were undone for 227, South Africa had a gigantic target of 417, which is astronomical to achieve in the fourth innings of a Test match. After a top-order failure, Aiden Markram and Theunis de Bruyn steadied the South African ship for a brief period. After De Bruyn’s dismissal, De Kock took guard with South Africa needing 281 runs to win and almost five sessions to be played.
At this stage, a victory for Australia looked imminent and not many would have anticipated the game to last till stumps. In fact, Australia looked all set to romp home with a massive win, but Markram and De Kock’s resistance delayed the result. South Africa needed them to fight back, which would have only injected self-belief and confidence for the next three games. They needed Markram and De Kock to resist and play out as many overs as possible, which they eventually did.
De Kock showed nerves of steel and found form while Markram confronted the pumped Australian attack with immense confidence. The duo stitched 147-run stand between them and ensured Australia didn’t walk away with an easy win. Australia just needed to break this partnership to turn things around, which they did when Marsh got rid of Markram.
Things were almost done and dusted for South Africa, but De Kock didn’t lose hope. He continued to fight the battle for next 13 overs and was equally supported by Morne Morkel. The game that was expected to get over way before stumps, was astonishingly dragged to the final day. This valiant display from De Kock was not aggressive, for which he is known for. Instead, he displayed some good temperament and resilience to get his rhythm back.
On day 5, De Kock was trapped leg before by Josh Hazlewood for 83 as South Africa were bowled out for 298. Although he didn’t achieve the 100-run milestone but had loads of positives to take from this outing. He confronted 149 deliveries and looked in good control. Despite the target being miles away, De Kock didn’t throw it away and drilled hard.
At times, all it takes is just a push, just one innings to get the momentum going when a player is going through a rough patch. Can this innings be that push for De Kock? Can he continue to weave this magic in three games to come? If yes, then South Africa will certainly hold themselves in a good position as De Kock has a knack for scoring big, which South Africa need dearly.