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Neil McKenzie and Quinton de Kock strung together a perfectly-paced chase against Mumbai Indians, but the senior batsman was not constantly at his young partner's ear; Lions are making sure they don't smother de Kock in expectation
Firdose Moonda at the Wanderers
October 14, 2012
The oldest and the youngest members of the Lions squad, who went to the same school - King Edward VII - combined to cap off South Africa's successful weekend of Champions League fixtures.
Neil McKenzie and Quinton de Kock both scored half-centuries as Lions paced their chase of 158 perfectly to record a second successive win over Mumbai Indians (albeit in the space of two years) and ensure both South African franchises won in their opening matches of the tournament.
Matters did not ever get completely away from Lions, who reined in Mumbai Indians from 45 for 1 after five overs to a par score. Even though the required run-rate climbed for 14 overs of the Lions reply, they reached the target with seven balls to spare thanks to a delicate innings from McKenzie, who barely played a shot in anger and also ushered the 19-year-old de Kock through to the end.
"We just batted according to plan," McKenzie said. "We've all got our different roles in the side. Once we get to a certain number, we open up and go from there." The freeing of the arms came after Malinga had bowled his third over, having conceded only eight runs in 18 deliveries, and with Lions needing to score almost 11 runs an over. McKenzie, who was on 26 at the time, hit Pollard for back to back fours and the pressure began easing.
From that moment, Lions took control away from Mumbai Indians but it was the passages of play before then that had them battling for the upper hand. The Mumbai Indians spinners tied them down, sometimes for five consecutive balls, as Pragyan Ojha did in the eighth over, and each time Lions had to muscle their way out.
The power-hitting came from de Kock, who secured relief at crucial times. "Just as we got bogged down a little, he would clear the rope," McKenzie said. "At the Wanderers, you get value for shots. You just have to beat point or midwicket and it's four."
While it looked as though McKenzie was the one issuing instructions to de Kock, he said it was a more case of them operating as a partnership. "He gave me a couple of balls to get in. I had 10 runs from nine balls before I really got going but we ran well between the wickets as well."
De Kock has already been spoken about as a future talent, especially since he is also a capable wicketkeeper, who could be a long-term successor to Mark Boucher. Lions are managing him carefully to ensure they continue to get the best out of him instead of smothering him in expectation. "I don't mentor him; I just give him some advice but whether he takes it [or not], you will have to ask him," McKenzie joked.
It is Alviro Petersen, the captain, and Geoffrey Toyana, the coach, who guide de Kock, although even that is only a little. "We just want to let him be for now," Petersen said. "In big games, it's the senior players who must be counted. I don't want to put pressure him at this stage."
Just as pressure will not be overloaded on de Kock, neither will praise, and Petersen was measured in his assessment of the innings. "He hasn't been around for too long but he has got a good head on him and he had Neil there as well," Petersen said. "There was no real slogging from Neil, even his boundaries were good cricket strokes."
He singled out another member of the squad though. Aaron Phangiso was responsible for the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar and for stemming the flow of runs in a miserly spell of 1 for 17 in four overs. "I was not happy with the way we bowled in the first five overs and then Aaron came on and just got us the momentum back. He never gets the credit he deserves, but he bowled exceptionally for us."
Mitchell Johnson was sent in at No. 4 by Mumbai Indians for the purpose of trying to take Phangiso on and he admitted it was a ploy that did not work: "I was looking to have a go at their spinner but I found it really difficult. I just couldn't get bat on ball."
Johnson also had praise for McKenzie and de Kock's 121-run stand. "Those two worked well together. Quinton would have worked off Neil, and he kept a cool head and played his own game. Neil knows this ground and he knew where to hit the ball. They batted really well and deserved the win."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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