Thinking, talking, doing, winning …

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICECape Town

DON’T think. Don’t talk. Do. If more players followed Quinton de Kock’s dictum, cricket would be a better game.

It was at Centurion on Friday, when De Kock delivered an innings for the ages.

He gave South Africa the wings they needed to beat Australia by six wickets in the first one-day international and lit the fuse for another cracker at the Wanderers on Sunday.

What was the talk about chasing down 295 to win?

“There was no talk – we know this Centurion wicket well enough,” De Kock said.

What thoughts did he and his opening partner, Rilee Rossouw, bring to the middle on the best way to exploit the inexperience of Australia’s attack?

“We didn’t think about it,” De Kock said. “You know Rilee; hits the ball fairly hard, doesn’t think twice about it, also.”

The stuff of white-ball fluff doesn’t often stick in the memory, but De Kock’s 178 will stay a while yet.

Sixteen fours! Eleven sixes! Off 113 balls!

Exclamation marks are rarely a good idea in a serious newspaper, but what’s a reporter to do when almost every stroke is a slap of batting at its most outrageous?

“Ja, it was lekker,” De Kock said.

David Saker, Australia’s bowling coach, concurred: “Once he got in he was hitting good balls for fours and sixes.

“He got in that mood where he wanted to hit balls from anywhere for four. That was special batting.”

But it’s Saker’s job to spoil the party on Sunday.

“International cricket’s brutal and if you don’t get it right you get eaten up pretty quick,” he said.

“In the conditions over here, as a bowler, you need to be right on (the mark).

“It’s hard work enough if you’re bowling well, nevermind if you’re not getting it right.

“Bowling is not that complicated. You try and hit that off-stump as much as you can.

“Obviously you can mix it up with a good bouncer and especially in South Africa’s you’ve got the option to do that.

“We know exactly what we have to do. We just didn’t execute.”

Australian captain Steve Smith knew that just as well: “We’ve got to be tighter with our lines and get our lengths right.

“That’s what I talked about before we went out on the field (on Friday) and we just weren’t able to execute well enough.

“We’ve got to try and turn that around quickly or we’ll see another display like that on Sunday.”

The Wanderers isn’t an easy place to put that kind of thing right.

It was here, in March 2006, that 872 runs were scored – 504 of them in fours and sixes – in the 99.5 overs of mayhem we call the 438 game.

De Kock was 15 when that drama consumed another given Sunday. He must have been glued to a television screen, or perhaps a seat or a patch of grass at the bullring itself?

“Nah, I had a club game,” he said. “I got back home and watched the highlights.”

Here he is, 10 years on, making his own highlights.

“It was the most free knock I’ve played but I’ve played a couple I’ve enjoyed more, where I’ve had to work hard for my runs. I don’t know, it was just my day I guess.”

The Australians were anaemic in all departments on Friday, but they are the No. 1 team in this format and they can be counted on to have done their homework.

“We don’t have games like this often against Australia,” De Kock said. “I’m waiting for the next one. We’ll see what happens: we know they’ll have something up their sleeves.”

Andile Phehlukwayo gave the Aussies an inkling of what that something should be in his 10 overs of calm and discipline on Friday.

“He bowled a really good length and held that length better than most,” Saker said. “He did get hit for a few fours and sixes but he kept going back into the good area. Hats off to him.”

And four wickets to him, for 44, in only his second ODI.

Unlike De Kock, Phehlukwayo is a thinker.

He had to be after Aaron Finch launched the fourth ball he bowled back over his head for six and hammered the next two for four through midwicket and backward point.

“A lot was going through my head about how I am going to bring it back and what I need to do,” Phehlukwayo said. “I was thinking about what I was doing at practice and what was working.”

“I didn’t know if I was going to get the ball again but I know I had backing of Faf (du Plessis) and the team.”

And we know cricket needs thinkers as much as it does doers.

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