Quinton de Kock on the tricky art of batting with the tail

Quinton de Kock‘s fourth Test hundred gave South Africa a dominant lead of 380 over Pakistan in the third Test at the Wanderers, and the visitors would not have been chasing nearly as much had de Kock not been able to string together some vital partnerships down the order. Occupying the No. 7 position in South Africa’s Test side, scoring runs with the tail is one of de Kock’s main jobs and it is also, he said, “one of the tougher jobs in the team”.

Having already batted South Africa to relative safety by adding 102 with Hashim Amla, de Kock then added 28 with Vernon Philander and a vital 79 alongside Kagiso Rabada. “It’s quite difficult – you want to score as many runs as you can, but then they put all the fielders on the boundary,” de Kock said. “So you can get caught up in what to do, it’s quite a tricky situation. And I’ve been caught up in that situation once or twice and given my wicket away. But I’m still learning. I’ve only played 30-odd Tests, so I’m still trying to figure out my way of how to go about it. It’s quite an art.”

South Africa were 195 for 6 when Philander joined de Kock at the crease, a lead of 272. By the time de Kock eventually fell, having equalled his career-best 129, that lead had increased to 379, leaving Pakistan with a challenging, but in the conditions by no means impossible, chase.

“It was quite important, the last couple of partnerships at the end,” de Kock said. “By the looks of it, we needed those extra runs at the end there because the wicket is playing quite nicely. Those two play a big role, especially KG. He came in and gave me confidence, and said to me that he’ll be here for me until the end, which he did and batted superbly. Vernon got a good nut, which was unfortunate, but when KG came in he gave me confidence.”

Rabada played a vital supporting role in getting de Kock to a fourth Test hundred that has been a long time coming. He scored only 21, but looked confident doing so. Rabada has already been used as a pinch hitter by Jozi Stars in the Mzansi Super League, and de Kock sees him doing an important job for South Africa with the bat as well as the ball in the future.

“KG is a flippen’ good batsman,” he said. “He’s got a good technique. He’s going to score runs for the team, especially when we need it most. He puts a bit of pressure on the bowlers, because he’s not scared to play his shots, but he plays good cricket shots, which is the key for him. He looks like a good batsman, and one day he could be higher up in the order going forward. He has a few things to work on, but he definitely has the potential to be a top batsman.”

With nerves setting in as de Kock approached his ton, a straight drive ricocheted off Rabada’s boot at the non-striker’s end, temporarily delaying the landmark. De Kock could see the funny side when asked about the skittish completion of his ton, but in the heat of the moment the frustration clearly got to him.

“I was actually angry,” he said, possibly only half joking. “I was feeling a bit of pressure, some heat, and some eagerness to get to the landmark and get it over and done with. And then his foot got into the way. But it’s all right, I got it in the end. I could have killed him. But it’s all right.”

Given his difficulties with the bat in cricket’s longest format over the last year or so, this was an important innings for de Kock and different sorts of emotions were evident when he reached the milestone.

“I was a little bit pumped up when I scored the hundred. I haven’t scored one in quite a while, so it’s nice to finally get those three figures behind my name once again. It’s always frustrating when you’re trying to do your best for the team, and you never quite get what you want out of it. It was quite frustrating, and that’s why I was a little pumped up today.”

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