CAPE TOWN – There will still be many twists and turns, highs and low, ebbs and flows ahead of the World Cup that is fast creeping up on everyone.
And considering South Africa’s record at previous World Cups – and especially that it will be the 20th anniversary of the fateful Lance Klusener and Allan Donald seminal run out – the talk will be all about how the Proteas are going to handle the pressure at cricket’s six-week long celebration.
However, they will also need to be equipped with the skills to navigate their way through nine round-robin matches and a possible two knockout matches if the golden trophy is to return to South Africa for the first time.
On the evidence of Wednesday night’s series-clinching seven-wicket victory against Pakistan at Newlands, every ounce of Quinton de Kock’s mercurial flair will be desperately needed to achieve this ambition.
De Kock has always been a prodigious talent, but since the departure of AB de Villiers from the national team, his importance to the Proteas’ cause has quadrupled.
It is not only the amount of runs that De Kock scores, but crucially at the rate at which he blazes it.
The dashing left-hander entertained his adopted Newlands faithful royally on Wednesday night with a blistering 83 off 58 balls (11x4, 3x6) at an almost T20-like strike-rate of 143.
It formed the bedrock of a successful run-chase that ensured South Africa continued their development of winning crunch series-deciding ODIs, as they comfortably chased down Pakistan’s 240/8 total.
It also meant South Africa avoided losing successive home ODI series to Pakistan, after the visitors were triumphant here back in 2013.
And yet it could all have ended much earlier in the evening had Usman Shinwari not overstepped the front line when De Kock had just 14.
The opener miscued a pull shot which was comfortably caught, only to be called back once the television replays had picked up the no-ball.
When defending a below-par total of only 240/8 on a surface that demanded something nearer 300, Shinwari’s indiscretion bordered on suicidal.
The magnitude of the mistake was exemplified by De Kock’s ambush, which further allowed the incoming batsmen, Faf du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen, to play innings devoid of any major risk-taking.
Du Plessis revels in playing such innings, and calmly helped himself to his 31st ODI half-century, but more importantly, it was the platform Van der Dussen needed to stake a further claim to be on the plane to England in May.
Having already impressed in the congested No 3 spot in his first couple of ODI innings in this series, he now showed that he could also adapt to the demands of batting in the middle-order, particularly against top-quality spin bowling.
A long strike into the North Stand off Shadab Khan (0/78) to close out the game and bring up his third fifty of the series was a serious statement of intent from Van der Dussen.
With David Miller already having been relegated to drinks duty to accommodate three seam-bowling all-rounders – Wiaan Mulder, Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo – on Wednesday, everything is now pointing Van der Dussen’s way.
The victory also belonged to the bowlers, though. They were disciplined throughout, particularly the medium-pacers, as they adapted to the conditions early on, with Pretorius (2/46) and Phehlukwayo (2/43) claiming two wickets apiece.
This series may not have been all about results for the Proteas, with various combinations tested and fringe players being given an opportunity, but that will make a series victory over the current ICC Champions Trophy holders taste even sweeter.@ZaahierAdams