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South Africa closing in on a perfect run after huge win over NZ | Cricket


South Africa closing in on a perfect run after huge win over NZ | Cricket

The hundreds came pretty much along predictable lines. Between Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen, Heinrich Klaasen and Adien Markram, it has been a steady stream of runs, clobbered and grafted in equal measure. In a World Cup where entire batting squads of England and Bangladesh have gone off the boil, this is a South Africa campaign to remember. There has been no off switch, and the battering has been relentless. Take out the defeat to Netherlands and South Africa’s scores in this World Cup are 428/5, 311/7, 399/7, 382/5, 271/9 and 357/4.

New Zealand's Matt Henry (C) greets South Africa's Quinton de Kock (L) as David Miller watches at the end of the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match(AFP)
New Zealand’s Matt Henry (C) greets South Africa’s Quinton de Kock (L) as David Miller watches at the end of the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match(AFP)

But that’s still not the point of Wednesday’s 190-run demolition of New Zealand. Very interesting how South Africa’s bowling has been peaking as well, triggering an implosion in a batting line-up that had almost chased down 388 in more difficult batting conditions against Australia in Dharamsala.

Pune was a much better batting strip, and even though New Zealand showed bravado in giving their chasing ability another chance, they actually put South Africa — they love to set targets — in an advantageous position.

The first powerplay produced just 43 runs, almost vindicating New Zealand’s decision at the toss. Another 195 runs in the next powerplay and New Zealand could still probably think they were in the game. But South Africa switched on the beast mode in the last 10 overs, hammering 119 runs. Till the 40th over, South Africa’s batting was all about de Kock’s indefatigability — he hit his fourth century of the World Cup — and van der Dussen’s support act. Van der Dussen was guarded at first, scoring one boundary in the first 30 balls he faced, but more promising was de Kock’s patience.

From lording over Bangladesh to shepherding Wednesday’s charge, de Kock’s transformation has been educative. Not till the 18th ball he faced did he break free with a boundary, followed by another lull of 21 balls. A four off Tim Southee, dragging him towards backward square-leg, followed by a six over long-on and de Kock was finally coming to his elements. But the illusion wasn’t designed to last, as he slowly started to churn out the shots that make de Kock such a dangerous opener.

“I’m feeling really good lately. It’s nice that everything is coming together at an important time for us,” said de Kock at the innings break. “I was getting a couple of messages from the bench to bat through. I just want to keep batting, bat for longer. My career is coming down to a finish, I’m trying to bat as much as I can.”

By the time he was dismissed, not only had de Kock brought up his fourth hundred of this World Cup but also given the rest of the batting a T20-like situation to go berserk. Van der Dussen took a heavy toll on James Neesham and Southee before David Miller joined the act to go on the rampage that saw him score 53 in just 30 deliveries. Even Markram, who arrived at the wicket for the last ball, didn’t spare New Zealand as he dispatched it over backward square-leg for six.

New Zealand were expected to mount a spirited chase. But third over into the innings, Marco Jansen used his height to add more bounce to a delivery that moved away just a bit from Conway to take a thick edge. Another bouncer this time got the better of Rachin Ravindra, taking a top edge of an adventurous pull that ballooned to fine-leg. At 45/2 after nine overs of unequal struggle, New Zealand were already looking psyched out of the game. More proof of that came in the form of a half-hearted push from Will Young to a short of a length ball from Gerald Coetzee.

History suggested New Zealand still had ample fight left but what transpired was little short of dereliction. Tom Latham managed a leading edge, Daryl Mitchell fell to a miscued hoick and it was more or less over after that.

New Zealand’s fall —losing three matches in a row now—has been odd. More striking was how imperiously South Africa packed them off. Jansen moving the ball and hitting the deck, Kagiso Rabada keeping a tight leash on the runs, Coetzee playing the role of fourth pacer with swagger and Maharaj turning, flighting and getting the ball to dip with an exhilarating sense of freedom is just the sort of momentum South Africa would have been seeking before an India game.

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