You could have called it youthful exuberance or just the brashness of having reached three figures in his previous two innings. Not that he hadn’t done it before. In fact,charging the bowler has been one of the more eye-catching facets of Quinton de Kock’s batting during the series.
But you could almost sense the whole of SuperSport Park lose a heartbeat as the 20-year-old jumped out of his crease,made room,and looked to smash Mohammad Shami through the covers only to mistime it.
Fortunately the ball went back to the bowler on the bounce. De Kock received a death stare from the bowler.
By then the entire Centurion crowd was on its feet. Only four batsmen before him had scored centuries in three straight ODI innings in history,including two South Africans in Herchelle Gibbs who was at the ground doing commentary in Afrikaans and AB de Villiers,the man at the non-striker’s end. The next delivery,de Kock stayed back in his crease,flicked the length delivery behind square and that was it. The baby of the South African dressing-room had just accomplished a feat that only few men before him had ever done.
Though he did survive two dropped catches during his knock,there almost seemed a sense of inevitability that he would get there.
Unfortunately,constant rains that commenced right after the South African innings ensured that the third ODI was called off,giving the hosts the series by a 2-0 margin. But not before de Kock ,AB de Villiers,who scored a sensational and customarily entertaining century and David Miller had taken their team to 301 for 8 and rendered another beating-down to the hapless Indian bowlers.
But the day once again belonged to the boy wonder from Johannesburg. While he played shots all around the ground once more,it was his foot-work that was the most eye-catching. Nimble and precise,and always with the intent to score runs. No wonder then that he left both the crowd and probably even the Indian bowlers surprised with his failure to connect with the middle of his bat after rushing out against Shami. It wasn’t the first time during the day that he charged down the crease to the Indian fast bowlers. He’s made a habit of it over the last 10 days. Never though has it seemed like he’s doing it with a sense of false bravado. There’s always been conviction. Off the 36 boundaries he hit during the series,close to 40 per cent have come when he gave the bowler the charge.
With de Kock,the use of his feet is not restricted to leaving his crease. It’s more to do with how he uses the crease to his advantage. The way he adjusts to the line and length of the ball,almost at the last minute,and makes slight yet crucial alterations to the position of his front-foot.
What de Kock has also shown during what has been a watershed series for him is a skilful pair of hands,which allow him to use the bat like a paint-brush,ensuring that he finds the gap more often than not-even through a packed off-side cauldron.
There wasn’t much on offer on the SuperSport wicket,but it was two-paced in terms of the ball often stopping on the batsmen. And here de Kock again showed great maturity in not going for the kill from the very start,rather giving himself time to gauge the pace and bounce.
Unlike during the first two ODIs,de Kock lost his opening partner very early. Then Ishant Sharma,bowling his best ODI spell in many months,got Henry Davids and JP Duminy both caught in the slips with deliveries that pitched on the perfect length and left them. Against Ishant,de Kock chose to play the percentages,and decided to not flash outside his off-stump. But like in the first two ODIs,the Indian bowling attack failed to keep the pressure on as a unit. At Centurion,Yadav ended up dishing out half-volleys and half-pitched presents to the wicket-keeper,who duly put them away.
Many detractors had questioned his ability while playing spin prior to the series. He had shut them up with his centuries in the first two ODIs,and here he was on the ball against R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja,jumping on to his back-foot whenever they pitched it short and forcing the pace otherwise with powerful drives and sweeps.
To be honest though,de Kock hasn’t had to contend with the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
But you couldn’t hold it against him. To his credit,de Kock has made the most of it while living up to the promise and ensuring in sensational fashion that the boy-to-man transformation was complete.