De Kock century outguns India


An outstanding century form opener Quinton de Kock stood at the fore of South Africa's convincing 141-run win over India in Thursday's first ODI at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.

A scintillating career best score of 135 (121b, 18×4, 3×6) by SA 'keeper Quinton de Kock helped power the Proteas to a mammoth 358/4 in the opening ODI against India at the Wanderers. While India routinely chased such targets against Australia in India, the bounce and seam of the Wanderers did not prove as hospitable as the visitors put up little resistance with the bat, crumbled to South Africa's hostile pace attack and lost by 141 runs.

It was a victory that smacked of more than just a game where one side played better than another as a definite feeling of vengeance permeated a 'Bull Ring' that was pretty in pink in the name of breast cancer awareness. The South African team, management and fans have felt angered by the BCCI's high-handed approach to the cancelling and then revising of this series from seven ODI's, three Tests and two T20I's to just three ODI's and two Tests. There had been rumours that fans were out to cause trouble but fortunately the only aggression in the ground seemed to take place on the field. If a ruthless victory was what the SA public wanted then their team did not let them down.

The Proteas' top five batsmen have struggled to perform in concert and amass big scores in more than a handful of games over their last five ODI series but this afternoon the top order put on over 350 runs between them. The public has been harsh about South Africa's inconsistent batting of late but it must be noted that today's innings showed that Pakistan are an underrated bowling attack. India's bowling is much weaker by comparison and the side has relied heavily on its strong batting line-up to win games and maintain their number-one ICC ODI ranking.

India captain MS Dhoni said after the match, "It is difficult to adjust to a pitch like this but we knew the schedule and we did have two and a half days to practice. We weren't able to bat or bowl well enough.

"South Africa knows the conditions better than us and our bowlers gave away runs and then it put more pressure on our batsmen to chase a big total," added the skipper.

Hashim Amla (65, 88b, 5×4, 1×6) batted beautifully with de Kock to build a handsome platform (150/ in 29 overs) but on a day where all those potentially match-changing moments went the home side's way, the opening pair were fortunate to survive two near run-outs and at least two catches that dropped just centimetres short of fielders.

SA captain AB de Villiers said at the post-match conference, "It was very hard to leave Graeme Smith out of the starting line-up but the way that Quinnie (de Kock) aggresses while Amla keeps rotating the strike, there just wasn't space for Smith in the team."

De Villiers went on to say that he doesn't see Smith playing in the side in any position other than the opening berth.

Jacques Kallis hardly troubled the scorers as he made just ten runs but AB de Villiers (77, 47b, 6×4, 4×6) and JP Duminy (59*, 29b, 2×4, 5×6) were absolutely ruthless in their goal of hammering the white leather ball to the boundary. De Villiers and Duminy added an outstanding 105 in the 7.4 overs that they shared at the crease.

Only Mohammed Shami (3/68) bowled spells that might be described as respectable as the rest of the Indian attack either went wicketless or conceded over seven runs to the over. If India are going to beat South Africa in the remaining two ODI fixtures then they will need to bowl far more consistent lines and lengths.

India simply could not get the scoreboard ticking as they went about the run chase. Dale Steyn (3/25) was magnificent upfront as his first four overs conceded only five runs as his the combination of swing and seam, just back of a length, consistently beat the outside edge of the bat. Rohit Sharma managed only two runs from the first 20 deliveries he faced and it didn't take long for the intense pressure to translate into wickets.

The visitors didn't manage a single partnership of over 50 runs and were not helped by two run-outs – one an extraordinary direct hit from Dale Steyn from the boundary. After 25 overs they were 110/5 and a good 100 runs behind the Duckworth Lewis par total. A defiant knock from captain MS Dhoni (65, 71b, 8×4, 1×6) was not enough to offer India hope and they capitulated for 217 all out in 41 overs.

The result represented a most unfriendly welcome for an India side that should know better to think they can arrive at a bouncy Wanderers and beat South Africa, even if the Proteas have just lost a series to Pakistan.

"We don't expect the Durban pitch to be as lively," said de Villiers, who hinted that spinner Imran Tahir would likely get a game on Sunday.

"If we can win the match and series on Sunday then that would be huge for us," added the captain who has been under pressure as a result of his side's inconsistent performances of late.

<b>Nick Sadleir</b>