Match Report: 2nd Test: Day 1: South Africa vs New Zealand at Centurion, August 27-31, 2016
Brief Scores: South Africa 283 for 3 (de Kock 82, Duminy 67*, Amla 58, Cook 56) v New Zealand
QUINTON DE KOCK grabbed the opportunity caused by the 11th hour injury to Dean Elgar to open the innings and help set the platform for the Standard Bank Proteas solid batting performance on the opening day of the second Sunfoil Series Test match at SuperSport Park on Saturday.
Bearing in mind that the New Zealand Black Caps had won the toss and opted to bowl first on a well-grassed surface, the Proteas could be well pleased with their opening day contribution of 283/3 from the 88 overs sent down.
Elgar twisted his ankle at catching practice on Friday which meant a reshuffling of the order with De Kock opening with Stephen Cook and Stiaan van Zyl filling the vacant No. 7 position.
With the benefit of hindsight New Zealand gave the Proteas a big tactical help by opting to bowl first as it meant that De Kock could bat while he was totally fresh instead of having to handle the gloves behind the stumps first.
He is the first wicketkeeper to open the batting for South Africa in a Test match since Denis Lindsay in 1965 to join a list that also includes Percy Sherwell, Tom Ward, Johnny Waite and Russell Endean.
The big difference between this batting effort and the one a week ago at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead was that the Proteas top four all got past 50 as they posted a succession of substantial partnerships with De Kock and Cook putting on 133 for the first wicket, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy 95 for the third and Duminy and Faf du Plessis an unbroken 37 for the fourth.
These helped the Proteas to have the better of all three sessions, putting on 100 without loss in the first session, 82/2 in the second and 101/1 in the third.
Cook (56 off 143 balls, 9 fours) and De Kock (82 off 114 balls, 15 fours) looked as though they had been batting together all their lives which in a sense is true as they played together for the same franchise for a considerable period of time which included opening together in the 50 overs competition.
They also pose considerable problems for the bowlers as, apart from the left-right combination, Cook tends to get right back in his crease while De Kock requires a different length from the seamers bowling to him.
Amla (58 off 91 balls, 9 fours and one six) looked as good as he did at Kingsmead and it has taken two very good deliveries for his two dismissals in the series. He again passed 50 and this means he has gone past the half-century mark on 11 occasions (5 centuries and 6 half-centuries) in his only 15 Test innings at this particular venue.
The cherry on the top for the Proteas was the batting of Duminy (67 not out, 122 balls, 10 fours) who scored his first half-century for two years. The quality of his straight driving indicated a batsman back in form and he now has the opportunity to go on to three figures and beyond once he and Du Plessis have got through the second new ball which has only been used for eight overs so far.
The best thing about this Proteas batting effort was that the conditions were by no means easy with the New Zealand seamers getting both swing and lateral movement. In fairness, they bowled much better than the scorecard indicates and the fact that the pitch was on the slow side certainly made the batsmen’s task slightly easier.
The seamers’ task was not made easier by the fact that the Proteas were able to score freely off the spin of Mitchell Santner who was only allowed eight overs which meant that the four seamers had to bowl all the rest.
The always willing Neil Wagner bowled an excellent 22 overs to take 2/51 but the New Zealanders still have the problem they had at Kingsmead of conceding too many boundaries. The Proteas managed to hit 45 fours and one six during the course of the day.