Boy, did South African cricket need this boost.
Quinton de Kock’s captaincy era got off to the perfect start as he and Temba Bavuma led the Proteas to an excellent seven-wicket victory over England in the first ODI at Newlands on Tuesday night.
Despite playing against opposition missing talents such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, South Africa still outplayed the world champions … and that’s no mean feat.
There was a sense of inevitability about De Kock’s 15th century in the format, particularly how bullish he appeared in the build-up to the series.
As it turned out, his 107 off 113 deliveries was a cracker, notable for the way he brilliantly assessed the slowness of the pitch before gradually cutting loose.
11 boundaries and six glided off his bat as the left-hander played shots all around the wicket.
Yet even if De Kock’s achievement was noteworthy, the real highlight was Temba Bavuma going a long way towards proving his critics wrong once again.
The diminutive Highveld Lions stroke-maker was outstanding, playing to all his strengths in a 103-ball 98 as he illustrated vividly again that he’s not a batter that invariably gets bogged down.
Together, De Kock and Bavuma shared a record second wicket stand of 173, proving perfect foils for each other.
It was a major disappointment that Bavuma was trapped LBW by a Chris Jordan delivery that surprisingly rushed him.
He took the decision on review, but it was futile.
However, De Kock’s brilliant day wasn’t confined to his batting.
On a snail-paced surface, he interestingly chose to field after winning the toss despite teams batting second only having won 14 out of 42 times at the venue.
Yet he reasoned the pitch might speed up a bit under lights and he was proven correct.
De Kock also managed an inexperienced attack well.
Realising that strokeplay would be difficult, he brought on the left-arm spin of debutant Jon-Jon Smuts in the seventh over and had immediate success as Jason Roy (32) holed out to long-on.
That would be the trend of England’s inninigs – too many attacking strokes on an unsuitable surface.
Tabraiz Shamsi’s wrist spinners proved particularly effective, ending with excellent figures of 3/38.
After reducing England to 131/6, the hosts slacked off as Joe Denly, with a fine 87 off 103, spearheaded a lower order fightback.
The South African seamers in particular didn’t quite adapt all that well, allowing the visitors to reach 258/8.
But De Kock and Bavuma rendered a potentially tricky target academic.