Earlier this week, Proteas captain Faf du Plessis had simple advice for Quinton de Kock to handle a small slump in form: don’t overthink things.
On Friday, the exciting wicketkeeper-batsman took that lesson to heart as he played his side into an excellent position at the end of the second day of the second Test against New Zealand in Wellington.
De Kock was simply magnificent as his fluent 91 off just 118 balls provided the platform for South Africa’s 349/9, a vital lead of 81.
Yet this innings wasn’t an indication of his mental strength.paint
Instead, it was a glimpse into the Proteas’ future – one where De Kock and Temba Bavuma will be the backbone of this line-up’s middle-order.
They did it in Hobart against Australia and they’ve done it here.
The diminutive Bavuma, who scored a gritty fifty in the previous match, continued his fine form in making 89.
It’s the type of batting that will make any doubts about his suitability for Test cricket disappear.
Together, De Kock and Bavuma added 160 for the seventh wicket as they rescued their side from a sticky situation.
New Zealand had an outstanding first session as their seamers – Tim Southee (2/98), Colin de Grandhomme (3/52) and Neil Wagner (3/96) – combined superbly to have the visitors in dire straits at lunch.
That said, they were assisted by the experienced middle-order showing poor judgement.
Hashim Amla (21) and JP Duminy (16) both chipped soft catches to short mid-wicket, while Du Plessis (22) lazily tried to drive a ball outside off.
It left the Proteas seemingly hopeless at 94/6.
But that brought the best out of De Kock and Bavuma, who didn’t merely try to ride the storm.
They counterattacked brilliantly and realised the only way to get on top is to actually put the pressure back on the Black Caps.
De Kock was particularly strong cutting and Bavuma showed his class with a strong performance all around the wicket.
The value of their stand was enhanced by the last wicket pair of Vernon Philander (36*) and Morne Morkel (31*), who added 47.
There was a scare for Morkel when he got hit on the front of his helmet by Southee but recovered quickly.