DAMBULLA. – You can’t accuse Quinton de Kock of not setting his sights high enough in the afterglow of South Africa winning the first two games in their one-day cricket series in Sri Lanka. “It was the mission to go 2-0 up and hopefully we’ll go to 3-0 and win the series in a great way‚” De Kock said after the Proteas won by four wickets in Dambulla on Wednesday.
“And then hopefully we’ll win the last two after that; that’s what we’re pushing for.”
Forrest Gump couldn’t have said it better himself: we’ll take 5-0‚ thank you.
There’s a lot of cricket to be played before that becomes a serious possibility‚ starting with the next game of the rubber in Kandy on Sunday.
But to be 2-0 up after they were comprehensively beaten in both Tests represent an impressive recovery by the visitors.
Thirty-seven of the 40 wickets South Africa lost in the Tests fell to spin‚ along with seven of the 11 that have gone down during the ODIs.
But the South Africans have learnt their lesson well enough not to lose those other nine wickets — even though the second ODI was played on the same pitch as the first game on Sunday‚ and which had thus had three days to become more like the turning surfaces that helped undo South Africa in the Tests.
“It was quite difficult to play spin [in the Test series] especially when the wickets have been given the chance to deteriorate over the last couple of days‚” De Kock said.
“We practiced hard during the Test series to deal with the spin so it’s just nice for me and the team to finally play spin properly.”
Opener De Kock scored 87 on Wednesday to snap at seven his streak of Test and one-day innings in which he hadn’t reached 50.
Hashim Amla has been De Kock’s partner most often‚ batting with him in 82 of his 92 ODIs.
They shared 91 for the first wicket on Wednesday‚ the first time in the four ODIs in which they have batted together this year that they have put 50 or more on the board.
In the three other games their stand has been ended after 7.3‚ 9.4 and 4.3 overs. On Wednesday they were together for 14 overs.
All four times the first man out has been Amla‚ who has scored 54 Test and one-day centuries but none in his last 28 innings in those formats.
Still‚ Amla’s 43 on Wednesday was his highest score in 11 trips to the crease and his most assured performance in months.
“It’s just nice to finally bat a game with ‘Hash’‚” De Kock said.
“I can’t remember the last time we batted together [for a significant period].
“It’s just nice to score some runs together.”
Amla and De Kock have shared 10 century partnerships‚ two of them double-hundreds stands — including an unbroken 282 against Bangladesh in Kimberley in October‚ South Africa’s record for any wicket — and they average 49.31 as a pair.
In all the 4 027 ODIs yet played only four opening pairs have amassed more runs than the 3 733 that Amla and De Kock have put on the board: Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly‚ Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist‚ Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes‚ and Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
All had more innings than Amla and De Kock have had‚ in the case of Tendulkar and Ganguly 54 more for their world record of 6 344 runs.
Wednesday’s effort took South Africa’s openers past another illustrious first-wicket pair: Mark Waugh and Gilchrist‚ who own 3 660 runs.
Another dozen runs for Amla and De Kock and they will knock Tendulkar and Sehwag out of fourth place.
But let’s not complicate things: they’re focused on 5-0‚ remember.