T20 World Cup 2024: Openers come to party for Proteas

De Kock slams 38-ball 65 to guide South Africa to a fighting total against England
Quinton de Kock scored his second consecutive half-century in the T20 World Cup.
Quinton de Kock scored his second consecutive half-century in the T20 World Cup. (Photo | AFP)

CHENNAI: Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in St Lucia is supposed to be one of the highest-scoring grounds in this tournament. While batters struggled to score runs at places like New York and Trinidad, Gros Islet has been the batters' paradise. the lowest first innings total this ground had seen in the T20 World Cup before the fixture between England and South Africa was 180 — scored by Scotland against Australia and West Indies versus England. The chasing sides won on both occasions.

So ahead of the Engalnd-South Africa match on Friday, the calculation for whoever batted first was simple: score 200+ runs to have a chance. For that to be achieved, at least one of the top-order batters had to go all out scoring runs at a brisk pace and others supporting him without consuming a lot of deliveries.

Once England captain Jos Buttler and decided to field, there were a few doubts whether the South African opening duo was up for the task.  And why not? After five fixtures in the ongoing tournament, South African openers had put on just 59 runs together on the board. While the opening duos from Afghanistan and Australia were operating on the 'go big or go home' principle with their batting in the powerplay after five fixtures, Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks were averaging 11.80 as a pair before Friday.

With England crawling back their way and looking their dominant best, South Africa's task got even harder. They needed De Kock and Hendricks to get going. A perfect powerplay, preferably without losing a wicket, to set up the foundation on which the likes of Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller could capitalise.

The start was far from ideal as Reece Topley conceded only two runs in the first over of the innings. Once Buttler introduced Moeen Ali, De Kock flexed his muscles. First, he came down the track to smack a boundary and followed it with a slog over long-off which was completely out of reach of a flying Harry Brook. While Topley controlled the flow of runs in his second over, De Kock showed no mercy to Jofra Archer.

A fuller delivery from Archer got whipped off the pads for a six. A full delivery followed and De Kock muscled it over midwicket with disdain as if the ball was his sworn enemy. With the fourth ball of the over, De Kock just pushed the ball towards the deep third to frustrate the English. Watching this attack might have inspired Hendricks at the other end as the right-hander merrily added one more boundary from that one Archer over.

As many as 21 runs came from the single over from the duo who before the contest had managed the highest opening partnership of 22 in five matches. It was largely because of De Kock's exceptional hitting, that South Africa finally had their maiden 50 partnership of the WC in just the fifth over of the day. By the time the powerplay was done, South Africa were cruising at 10.50 runs per over. De Kock did his job of setting the pace, with a little help from his opening partner.

South Africa, however, squandered the advantage as some brilliant fielding from England's captain behind the stumps and tricky batting conditions meant, they could post only 163 for six — the lowest first innings score at the venue this World Cup.

After chasing 180 against West Indies at the same ground in the night game, England started in a dominating fashion with Phil Salt smashing a six over square leg in the opening over. Till the halfway point, continuous fall of wickets kept England away from having a meaningful partnership as they were 60/3 after 10 overs.

From there on Liam Livingston and Harry Brook turned the tables and added 78 runs off 42 balls. South Africa turned the heat up with their exceptional fielding and economical bowling. They held their nerve to see South Africa win by seven runs.

Brief scores: South Africa 163/6 in 20 ovs (De Kock 65, Miller 43; Archer 3/40) beat England 156/6 in 20 ovs (Harry Brook 53, Liam Livingston 33; Keshav Maharaj 2/25)    

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