De Kock destined for greatness

Quinton de Kock (Gallo Images)
Quinton de Kock (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - In the end the rain ruined what had the potential to be a riveting finish, but not before 23-year-old Quinton de Kock had set the Mangaung Oval alight. 

It was De Kock's third century in his last four ODIs and the ninth of his career, but he surely hasn't hit many better. 

Unfortunately, it had to end, but if De Kock had batted for another hour then who knows how close the Proteas would have come to chasing down the mammoth 400 set by England?

The truth is that South Africa had lost one or two too many wickets by the time the heavens opened, and that coupled with their diabolical bowling performance suggests that they probably deserved to lose. 

But the De Kock knock was something special. 

He raced to his 50 off 37 balls, and his century off just 67 balls. By the time the Proteas left the field at 250/5, De Kock was 138* off 96 balls (12 x 4, 6 x 6).

There was a time, not so long ago, when De Kock's readiness for international cricket was worthy of debate. 

His talent has never been doubted, but the trick appeared to be getting him to consistently perform to his ability. 

For a while, and especially during last year's World Cup, the explosive left hander was way off the mark.

That poor run of form cost him his place in the side for a home ODI series against New Zealand in August, while he was also left out of the Test side that toured India.  

De Kock's temperament and his mental approach to his batting was the concern. 

All too often his shot selection when getting out was questionable, with his fearless approach sometimes coming across as irresponsible as time after time he threw his wicket away.

It appeared that the age-old cliche of 'getting your eye in' did not apply.

You never want to restrain a player who has the combination of skill and natural aggression that De Kock has. You want him to play his shots, because that is when he is at his most dangerous. 

But, in De Kock's case, there was the feeling that he needed to spend a little bit of time feeling bat on ball at the start of his innings. 

On Wednesday evening, De Kock displayed the maturity that has perhaps been lacking from his game over the last couple of years. 

It would have been easy to panic, and the De Kock of old would surely have thrown the kitchen sink at the English attack from the get-go as the mammoth target of 400 loomed large. Few would have taken issue with that ... if ever there was a time for De Kock to express himself, this was it. 

Instead, he was measured.

De Kock will always have that natural attacking instinct - it is a major part of what makes him so exciting - but on Wednesday it was very much a case of controlled aggression as he looked to get after the England attack. 

Perhaps it was a case of no longer premeditating, but De Kock seemed to play everything on merit - a good ball was pushed into space for a single while almost every wayward offering got the punishment it deserved.

He is strong, versatile, has an incredible eye and he backs himself to play shots that others wouldn't. 

There will still be moments when he makes the wrong decisions, but the signs are that he is making less and less of those. 

Questions might still remain over his ability to stick around and show a bit of grit coming in at No 7 in the longer format, but now has to be the time to accept that De Kock is South Africa's only logical wicketkeeping option in all three formats moving forward. 

Given how much cricket he still has ahead of him, there is no limit as to what this youngster can achieve in the game. 

If Kagiso Rabada is the future of South African cricket, then De Kock is there standing right next to him. 

And at a time when there aren't exactly a host of youngsters putting their hands up, that makes De Kock precious to the Proteas.

In a batting line-up that has been overly reliant on the genius of AB de Villiers in recent times, he has emerged as another match-winner. 

A top four of De Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (who seems to have found a bit of form) and De Villiers in the ODI side is comforting, and you would back one or two of those guys to get runs every time. 

And with bowling performances like the one we just witnessed, South Africa might need to unearth a few more match-winners between now and the end of the series. 

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...

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