De Kock should swell SA gates

Quinton de Kock (AFP)
Quinton de Kock (AFP)
Cape Town - More by accident than design, perhaps, Cricket South Africa should be revelling in the fact that the first match of the return series against Pakistan on our soil very shortly will take place at the Wanderers next Wednesday.

It allows the Johannesburg public an opportunity to see local boy Quinton de Kock finally grace the famous Bullring in the green limited-overs kit of his country - and hopefully only continue his emergence as a possible wunderkind of note for the Proteas.

The venue, scene of so many pulsating limited-overs internationals because of its often ideal conditions for big-scoring matches, hosts the first of two Twenty20 internationals in the hastily-convened short series.

Marketing of the five matches (two T20, three one-day internationals) is probably proving pretty difficult, given that there has been so much combat between these particular nations over the past year or so and that the SA-staged exercise is really little more than a desperate opportunity to make up some of the financial shortfall caused the Indian tour rumpus.

Certainly not helping is the way the ever-fickle Pakistanis have imploded over the past few days, first in the manner they surrendered the ODIs in the United Arab Emirates by a 4-1margin and now Wednesday’s pathetic, shambolic display in being taken to the cleaners by nine wickets with five and a half overs to spare in the first of two T20s before the sides jet out of the Emirates for the Highveld.

If Pakistan are currently experiencing such angst - most haplessly in the batting department - on typical Subcontinent-type tracks, it is highly optimistic to think they will be greatly more competitive on faster surfaces in South Africa and against a Proteas one-day brigade at last playing with intensity, confidence and hunger once more.

So perhaps the immediate follow-up series of matches needed a poster boy to jazz it up, if you like ... and that has probably arrived with impeccable timing in the shape of De Kock.

The 20-year-old was even described as “the baby-faced assassin” by admiring captain Faf du Plessis after the two had made brutally short shrift of the simple two-figure target in Dubai.

“He’s in a purple patch ... hopefully he can just keep going,” added the skipper in his post-match TV interview.

Many converts to the De Kock Appreciation Society back home will be banking on that being the case; he is providing a handy extra incentive for people to get to the various South African grounds over the remainder of this month.

Twice over the course of just three innings, the little left-hander has suddenly broken his prior shackles of relative uncertainty and posted personal bests in both T20 and one-day international cricket.

Wednesday’s authoritative - though wisely quite measured at first - 48 not out in the first-named arena came only five days after he blasted a maiden unbeaten century in the fourth ODI in Abu Dhabi, and he is playing with a kind of freedom that must bode well for similar fireworks before his home supporters.

Keep in mind that only four of De Kock’s 10 ODIs thus far have come on SA turf, and three of his seven T20 internationals - none of those took place at his beloved Wanderers, either, which is so tailor-made to his approach to batting.

Almost as significantly, the wicketkeeping string to his bow leapt to real prominence in Wednesday’s rout - where a snorting Dale Steyn and Lonwabo Tsotsobe quickly made sure there would be only one, obvious winner - as he featured in as many as five dismissals (two catches, two smart stumpings and a run out with a direct hit).

In the SuperSport studio, a prior Proteas legend of the glovework, Mark Boucher, who has done some mentoring of the youngster, revealed: “He had a bit of doubt about his ‘keeping, just as I did at first.

“What he did today ‘keeping-wise will take him a long way.”

De Kock clearly still has some flaws to iron out in both his key areas of responsibility, but he has twigged as to the work-rate and dedication required to cut it at international level, by all accounts.

A bright new star seems promisingly on the rise; the South African public might do well to waste little time booking their share of witnessing it.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing
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