NOTTINGHAM – Quinton de Kock was typically non-plussed about being promoted up the order, and says he’d be happy to continue playing in that position and keeping wicket, but he’d have to improve his fitness.
The Proteas had jotted De Kock’s name in at No 4 on the team sheet that was handed to the match referee at the toss on Friday morning, but even as he came to the crease at the fall of Heino Kuhn’s wicket, it was still somewhat surprising.
The idea had been broached with him on Wednesday in a conversation with skipper Faf du Plessis.
“Faf asked where I would like to bat, and I said that I would like to bat four. It didn’t change much in my game plan,” De Kock said on Friday evening.
“Obviously I knew that I might need to be a bit tighter, coming up against a newer ball. Mentally going into it, I was the same. I just kept it simple.”
De Kock featured in what was arguably South Africa’s best period of batting in the series so far, helping to add 123 for the third wicket with Hashim Amla, who top-scored with 78.
De Kock’s innings was typically attacking as he scored 68 off 81 balls, hitting eight fours.
His opposite number Jonny Bairstow said he wasn’t at all surprised to see De Kock stride out at No 4, citing his Test average of 50 as making it an obvious choice for the visitors.
“Obviously that’s a team balance issue in terms of what they want to do,” said Bairstow, who took a very fine catch to help dismiss Faf du Plessis for 19 in the afternoon.
“For us, if we can get him in early, we can exploit any movement there is with the harder boil or off the pitch, but at the same time, there’s also the opportunity of a guy going on and scoring a very big hundred.”
Quite how long playing De Kock at No 4 will be an option remains to be seen. Aged 24, he’s still reasonably young, but the physical and mental demands of keeping and batting that high up will wear him down. “It’s up to the individual,” said Bairstow.
“I’m sure AB (de Villiers) was asked what the best position was for him to bat, (Adam) Gilchrist too. I’ve been asked that recently, I think it is very personal to the team and the balance of the side. There has to be flexibility around it.
“If Quinton’s kept for 200 overs and then has to go in after a quick two wickets, then that’s a very tough thing to do.”
For now, De Kock is happy enough to do it. “Ja, I think I’m fit enough,” he said.
“To me, it’s nothing different to whether you are fielding in the main positions in the field and end up in the field for long periods of time. It doesn’t really bother me.
“If I need to do extra fitness work and be one of the fitter cricketers around the world to do that job, I’ll do it. I’ll just do what the team needs from me.”
De Kock said the Proteas were content with where they were placed after the first day, thanks in the main to the unbeaten partnership of 74 for the seventh wicket between Vernon Philander (54) and Chris Morris (23).
“It was very up and down today. One session was our session, one was England’s. It was very back and forth. We did go through some stages where we played some good cricket, but we would have liked to have done better,” De Kock said.
“Unfortunately it’s not the nature of the game to have everything you want. I think (Saturday) will be moving day for us.
“Vern and Morro have got us into a great position again, so we’ll just look to capitalise on that.”