Cape Town - Quinton de Kock’s star continues to rise and rise.
The 20-year-old top-order talent has now come off at the crease in a meaningful way in all of his last six limited-overs appearances for South Africa, whether in the Twenty20 or one-day international landscape.
By earning the player-of-the-match award in Wednesday’s rain-curtailed first Proteas game of the summer on home soil, the opening T20 clash with Pakistan at his Wanderers franchise base, De Kock scooped his richly-merited first such honour against these opponents after twice running team-mate Dale Steyn agonisingly close for the laurel in the last 12 days or so.
Captain Faf du Plessis conceded that, with the fixture tightly poised, the Duckworth/Lewis-determined outcome in his team’s favour was an “unfortunate” way to win, but he was just as happy to stay in victorious mode after so many successes against the same foes in the United Arab Emirates.
Niftily dodging the various Highveld storms, however, young De Kock was able to put a big personal stamp on the meeting with his delightfully free-flowing knock of 43 in a rollicking foundation for the SA innings with established master Hashim Amla – they belted almost 10 runs to the over for the first seven overs and bit after the Proteas were invited to take first strike by Mohammad Hafeez.
A fair bit of momentum was lost after that first-wicket alliance, so in some ways that may only have been a reflection of just how blistering and authoritative their initial effort was.
Fast-emerging Lions player De Kock smashed some searing boundaries all about the park, and after a tentative start to his international career – he admitted after Wednesday’s match that he “didn’t really have a game-plan” then – the left-hander is just becoming more and more of a joy to watch and clearly soaring in confidence.
He will seek to extend his productive trot to Newlands, and the second and last T20 encounter on Friday, fuelled also by having demonstrating again his natural ability as a wicketkeeper which is giving the Proteas wonderful rotational options in that particular berth, also involving the proven AB de Villiers.
I just fancy that the time is right to begin at least speculating whether De Kock – exhibiting some of the very special qualities as a stroke-player that also characterised young guns of the South African past like Graeme Pollock, Peter Kirsten, Daryll Cullinan and Herschelle Gibbs – may set himself up to be fast-tracked to the Test team before the domestic summer runs its course.
For sure, he has some rough edges still to iron out, but those are already happening at a rate of knots.
Remember that his first-class statistics thus far (he made his debut a few days after turning 17) make strong reading: 1,504 runs from 18 matches in the longer format at an average of almost 56 and highest score of 194.
It is an intriguing thought that the No 1-ranked Proteas start the first of two Tests against India in De Kock’s Johannesburg stomping ground on December 18 – one day after the player’s 21st birthday.
Ironically the top-order batsman under the most pressure to hold onto his SA spot is Alviro Petersen, De Kock’s franchise captain, who had another shaky series against Pakistan in the Emirates although there have also been times when he has looked indisputably at home at Test level.
Petersen may just have to confirm, via early rounds of the imminent Sunfoil Series four-day competition, that he is worthy of retention against the Indians, while De Kock tries to blossom further in the meantime in one-day combat against both Pakistan and India and nudge the selectors that he is up for representing his country in all three formats.
Watch this space?
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