De kock joins elite company

The third one-dayer was abandoned at the half-way stage at the SuperSport Park in Centurion. The highlight of the match was de Kock’s third century on the trot. K. C. Vijaya Kumar reports.

In a wretched bunch of ODIs for India, wet weather too played a sinister part as the final clash of the three-match series was abandoned at the half-way stage at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on December 11. South Africa scored 301 for eight and the Indians never got a hit as the skies turned moist. Having won the previous games at Johannesburg and Durban, South Africa seized the series 2-0.

Perhaps it should not have come as a surprise because on the game’s eve, all that lingered was rain, rain and more rain while M.S. Dhoni’s men and the Proteas trained indoors. Most people said that the heavens opened up on that Tuesday because it was also the day when there was a memorial service for the late Nelson Mandela at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium in which the United States President Barack Obama delivered a riveting speech.

Cut to the cricket on Wednesday, it again proved to be a tale of South African dominance despite the changes in the team — Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and Morne Morkel were rested — and the sudden collapse upfront (28 for three).

The weather, at least during the Proteas’ batting stint, was a glorious exposition of a bright sun and as Ravi Shastri said while stepping out of the commentary box, India had every reason to feel at home in the warm climes and on a pitch that seemed perfect for batting.

The South Africans though suffered a false-start as Hashim Amla fell early, clipping a Mohammad Shami full-toss straight to Yuvraj Singh and the glorious run of partnerships — that the opener and his partner Quinton de Kock, had scripted in the previous games (152 and 194) — had finally succumbed to the law of averages.

Worst was to follow for the host as Ishant Sharma lured edges from Henry Davids and J. P. Duminy and the Indians at last had their warmest moment in South Africa till then. The bugles were sounded a bit early though as the contest was not over and de Kock and his skipper AB de Villiers buckled down, offering resistance and then topped it with bruising blows in a fourth-wicket partnership worth 171 runs.

The big hits were essayed as de Kock’s (101, 120b, 9x4, 2x6) left-handed batsmanship was a lovely counter to the rapid ways of de Villiers (109, 101b, 6x4, 5x6) and soon it was a matter of etching milestones and watching the Indian shoulders droop. de Kock’s fourth ODI hundred — third consecutive against the Indians — proved that the 20-year-old is a player, who can strike roots and flourish for years to come, provided he stays grounded. And in hammering his third ton against the Indians, de Kock joined an elite bunch of players, who have done it in the past: Zaheer Abbas, Saeed Anwar, Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers.

The last-named was delighted when de Kock reached the three-figure mark and wrapped his junior in a tight hug. Later, asked if he got any advice from his captain, de Kock said: “I don’t remember.” A bemused de Villiers laughed and said: “I told him to stay focussed, told him to watch the ball but hey, he doesn’t remember anything.”

Soon de Villiers reached his 16th ODI century and then wickets fell marking a late revival from the Indian team, that in-between had dropped de Kock twice (on 37 and on 43). Yet, the runs that de Kock and de Villiers strung together and David Miller’s unbeaten 56, were enough to ensure South Africa crossed the 300-run mark. Soon a wind blew, toppling things and the clouds delivered on their dark promises and India was left stranded.

For the visitor, the only respite was Ishant’s return to a semblance of form as he bowled better lines and stayed close to the stumps. Deservingly, he notched his 100th ODI scalp in the game and later philosophically said: “Ups and downs are part of the game.” He and his team-mates now have the harder task of doing well in the coming two Tests against the Proteas.

* * * THE SCORES

South Africa: Hashim Amla c Yuvraj Singh b Shami 13, Quinton de Kock b Ishant 101, Henry Davids c Raina b Ishant 1, J. P. Duminy c Raina b Ishant 0, AB de Villiers lbw b Yadav 109, David Miller (not out) 56, Ryan McLaren c Yadav b Ishant 6, Wayne Parnell c Rohit b Shami 9, Vernon Philander b Shami 0, Lonwabo Tsotsobe (not out) 1. Extras (lb-2, w-3): 5. Total (for eight wkts. in 50 overs): 301.

Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-28, 3-28, 4-199, 5-252, 6-269, 7-291, 8-298.

India bowling: Ishant Sharma 10-1-40-4, Umesh Yadav 9-0-57-1, Mohammad Shami 10-0-69-3, R. Ashwin 9-0-63-0, Ravindra Jadeja 6-0-32-0, Suresh Raina 3-0-16-0, Virat Kohli 3-0-22-0.

Match abandoned.