May 23, 2019 / 2:16 PM / 4 months ago

Cricket: Master-blaster De Kock carries South Africa’s batting hopes

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Quinton de Kock will seek to retain his golden form deep into the Cricket World Cup as his runs at the top of the batting order will be crucial to any realistic South African title challenge in England and Wales.

Cricket - Sri Lanka v South Africa - South Africa Practice Session - Pallekele, Sri Lanka - August 7, 2018 - South Africa's stand-in captain Quinton de Kock watches his during a practice session ahead of their fourth One Day International (ODI) cricket match against Sri Lanka. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/Files

Wicketkeeper-batsman De Kock, 26, has emerged as South Africa’s most deadly attacking weapon in their top six, with his ability to clear the boundary ropes coupled with stylish left-handed drives and cuts against the new ball.

His form in the South African summer was eye-catching, passing 80 in four of his last six one-day international innings against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, including one century, and reaching 50 in another visit to the crease.

It has seen him rise to number four on the International Cricket Council’s ODI batting rankings, behind only India’s Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma and Ross Taylor from New Zealand.

It not just his weight of runs, but also the pace at which he scores. He has one gear. Fast.

Those 436 runs in his last six knocks came off 379 balls, with the only disappointment his inability to convert more of those scores over 50 into three figures.

That is because his career record is strong in that regard, with 21 half-centuries and 14 hundreds in 106 innings at a strike-rate that is a shade under 96.

One of those centuries was a remarkable 178 from 113 balls against Australia in 2016, an innings in which he hit 16 fours and 11 sixes and was only ended as he chased a double century before the successful run chase came to a close.

De Kock was the third highest scorer in the recently completed Indian Premier League as he helped Mumbai Indians to the title, his 529 runs coming at a strike-rate of 132.91.

Without the acceleration in the middle-order of AB de Villiers, South Africa will rely heavily on De Kock’s ability to launch the innings from the outset on what are expected to be batsmen-friendly wickets in England.

South Africa will be buoyed by De Kock’s record against sub-continent teams, his ability to play spin key to that success, and an important factor in a batting line-up that has shown frailties against slow bowling.

He is also one of the leading wicketkeepers in the world and with no back-up in South Africa’s World Cup squad, faces a busy six weeks with the bat and the gloves.

Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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