TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THAT Quinton de Kock hits the ball hard is old news, but never has he hit it harder, better, sweeter and with more authority than he did at Centurion on Friday.
The bare bones of was that De Kock’s 178 hurtled SA to victory by six wickets with 13.4 overs to spare in the first one-day international against Australia.
Having been put in to bat, the visitors squandered a good start to reach 294/9. SA replied with 295/4 in 36.2 overs.
But there was a lot more to it than that.
With AB de Villiers out of the series because of an elbow problem and Hashim Amla sidelined for the match with flu, SA needed a batsman equal parts innovation and maturity to cover the bases those two fine players left vacant
De Kock was that batsman, ripping 11 sixes and whipping 16 fours but also showing the good sense not to try to hit the cover off each of the 113 deliveries bowled to him.
His rewards were plentiful.
The innings was De Kock’s 11th century in 65 ODI innings and his highest score in the format.
It was also the second-highest innings by a South African in an ODI.
Only Gary Kirsten’s 188 against the United Arab Emirates in the 1996 World Cup survived being usurped.
In this one fell swoop of a glittering innings De Kock leapfrogged 17 scores made by South Africans in ODIs that were higher than his previous best of 138 not out.
The match took two giant leaps towards being decided when De Kock shared century stands with Rilee Rossouw and Faf du Plessis.
Rossouw scored 63 of the 145 put on for the first wicket, and Du Plessis made 26 of the 123 added for the second.
The rest belonged to De Kock, and when he got out – hooking Scott Boland to be caught on the square leg boundary in the 34th over – SA needed just 15 runs to win.
And that, mind, to seal the third-highest successful chase in the 49 ODIs played at Centurion.
SA would have had to chase a few more had Andile Phehlukwayo, playing in only his second ODI, not bowled a fuller length than most of his colleagues and showed canny variation to claim 4/44.
Aaron Finch hammered Phehlukwayo for a six and two fours in his first over, but the fast bowler removed both Finch and Steve Smith in his second over.
Finch was caught by a tumbling Wayne Parnell at short fine leg and Smith was trapped plumb in front.
Diving catches by De Kock and David Miller helped Phehlukwayo earn his other two scalps, those of Mitchell Marsh and George Bailey.
But the Australians were up for a fight on a willing pitch and fast outfield.
David Warner and Finch gave the visitors a solid beginning with an opening stand of 64.
Then five wickets fell before Bailey and John Hastings came together in the 29th over to post Australia’s only other half-century partnership.
Phehlukwayo had Hastings caught at long-off for 51 in the 46th over to end the stand.
Bailey, batting at No. 4, marshalled the innings well and was eighth out for 74.
Dale Steyn left the field twice during the innings and was seen clutching his shoulder and his hamstring.
He returned to wrap up the innings by dismissing Bailey and Adam Zampa.
Steyn missed SA’s last 12 ODIs before Friday’s match and was out for six of the eight tests they played last season with groin and shoulder injuries.