TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
HAVING scored 99-and-a-half runs at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on Sunday, Quinton de Kock paused mid-pitch to brandish the bat he had used to take him so close to a century.
Then he punched the air. Then he punched the air again. Only then did he complete the required single.
“Even now, I don’t know what I did,” De Kock said in a television interview during the innings break. “I didn’t mean to do it but it happened.”
When Faf du Plessis tried a similar trick, leaping high and throwing an air punch to celebrate his impending century, his legs cramped and he had to limp to his hundred. What a difference an age gap of nine years makes.
When AB de Villiers scampered a helter-skelter two to reach his hundred, he smacked his chest with his bat and roared, “Come on!” as if he was tightly wrapped in black leather and vamping it up in a Berlin bondage club. The stands, pumped full of Indians, roared back: “ABD! ABD! ABD!”
And those were only a few of the pantheon of memories that will stick in South Africans’ hearts and minds from the fifth one-day international against India.
You can do that kind of thing if you’re special. And De Kock, Du Plessis and De Villiers were extra special on Sunday. So much so that the result – SA won by 214 runs to inflict India’s second-worst loss in terms of runs in their 891 ODIs and to clinch their first bilateral series in the format in India 3-2 – was a subplot to the more immediate, more compelling drama.
Similarly, the facts that De Kock, Du Plessis and De Villiers scored 109, 133 and 119 were no more no less than that. Even SA’s total of 438/4 – spot the magic number – was just another detail in a picture that kept getting bigger.
De Kock took 74 of his runs in boundaries and reached three figures off 78 balls; his only century in the format off fewer than 100 deliveries.
Du Plessis was poleaxed by cramp repeatedly. Once, as he lay flat on his back on the pitch, MS Dhoni came from behind the stumps to help stretch his hamstrings.
Up in the commentary box, Graeme Smith laughed his head off and asked, “Are there snipers on the roof?”
De Villiers launched two sixes in an over three times. He surged past 50 off 34 balls and 100 off 59. He did that De Villiers thing he does and made the impossible possible.
But he did not impress De Kock: “It’s becoming a normal thing now for AB. He doesn’t even celebrate anymore. It’s just bat up and thank you.”
De Kock and Du Plessis added 154 before Du Plessis and De Villiers put on 164. They were parted when Du Plessis finally retired hurt. But he went with a bang.
“I’ve got nothing left,” Du Plessis said to his captain as his muscles convulsed.
“You can still hit sixes,” came an unmoved De Villiers’ reply.
So Du Plessis stood and delivered four sixes and two fours off the last 10 balls he faced.
Then De Villiers took over in a stand of 79 in which Farhaan Behardien had the opportunity to score just 16.
India were dismissed for 224 in 36 overs with Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn snorting fire and claiming seven wickets between them in a reply that oozed along awkwardly like a wake held before the dying man was dead.
What of India’s performance? India who?
By the numbers:
438/4 – SA’s total, the highest scored against India in all their 891 ODIs.
6 – The number of times SA have reached 400 in an ODI. No team has done so more.
4 – How many times SA have reached 400 in an ODI this year.
2 – How many times three batsmen have scored centuries in an ODI innings. SA own both instances of the feat – on Sunday and when Hashim Amla (153*), Rilee Rossouw (128) and AB de Villiers (149) ran riot against West Indies at the Wanderers on January 18.
1 – How many times 400 has been reached at Wankhede stadium.
8 – How often De Villiers has scored a century in 75 or fewer deliveries, a world record.
5 – Quinton de Kock’s number of ODI centuries against India. He has eight in total.
0 – The number of times De Kock has scored an ODI half-century against India without going on to reach a century.
33 – How many runs Faf du Plessis scored off the last 10 balls he faced – hitting four sixes and two fours – before retiring hurt with cramp.
12 – Mohit Sharma’s economy rate, the worst by an Indian bowler in an ODI.