Cricket

Quinton de Kock is the key to the Proteas' batting line-up

He needs the kind of World Cup build-up that has eluded him

03 March 2019 - 00:03 By KHANYISO TSHWAKU


While the recent Test summer was far from profitable for the majority of SA's front-line batsmen, the same can't be said of Quinton de Kock.
He may have had the benefit of batting at Nos 7 and 6 for the Pakistan and Sri Lanka Tests but he was hardly given the platform to bat with freedom.
In the eight completed innings De Kock batted in during the Test summer, only three times did he come with a score past three figures.
In ODIs though, De Kock opens and from today's first of five ODI meetings against Sri Lanka he'll be required to reprise the form that made him a key wicket for the touring teams this season.
In the five Tests against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, he was SA's top run-scorer with 251 runs at 62.75 and 222 runs at 55.50 respectively against the Asian tourists.
He was a bit of a miss in the three ODI matches he played against Pakistan with 116 runs at 38.66
However, he came good in the deciding ODI in Cape Town where his 58-ball 83 made light work of what could have been a tricky chase.
With today's fixture being the first of five competitive games the Proteas have to iron out their batting creases.
What will be required from De Kock is a transference of red-ball form to the shorter format.
With Hashim Amla missing this series and also badly out of form, De Kock is needed to fire on all cylinders.
The 26-year-old also needs the kind of World Cup build-up that eluded him in 2015.
De Kock was the victim of an ankle injury that saw him miss the bulk of SA's summer.
Such was De Kock's poor form, he could manage only 145 runs, 78 of them coming in SA's big quarterfinal win over Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Before he was injured he made 107 against Australia in his last ODI before missing the summer.
De Kock has been relatively injury-free recently and given SA's batting struggles, he'll be required to dodge injury. SA's limited-overs batting group is different from the red-ball unit that was repeatedly exposed by Sri Lanka.
Runs were missing from the top three and any team that has designs on a World Cup play-off spot needs at least three of its top five batsmen to come good at any given time.
England are leading the way in this regard with their power-packed yet sensible top five that's able to score boundaries and rotate the strike at will.
De Kock's probably the only SA batsman who can match the England line-up's ability to bat with a sense of purpose yet still understand the need to release pressure with consistent strike rotation.
De Kock is also handy at playing spin; something SA struggle with against Pakistan and is a strength of Sri Lanka.
Opening also gives him the best or the worst of the batting conditions; the kind of preparation De Kock will need for the moving ball in England even though most of the pitches have been anaesthetised.
Being an established senior player, De Kock doesn't have to worry about a place in the team, unlike Rassie van der Dussen and Reeza Hendricks, who need every game to prove themselves before JP Duminy returns later in the series. De Kock, though, has a point to prove and this could be his year of reckoning.

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