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Just 20 years and 14 ODIs old, Quinton de Kock gave the Johannesburg faithful 135 reasons to roar and cheer for one of their own
Firdose Moonda at the Wanderers
December 5, 2013
'Indian bowlers bowled short instead of going fuller' - de Kock
The Wanderers roar. It has the bass that comes out of a hollow drum when someone - and there is always someone who can't resist - lets out a long, lonely "helloooooo" deep into it. It has the volume of the speakers being fitted into cars the size of jelly tots, which somehow accommodate amplifiers three times that size. It boils over with emotion.
Today, the roar was expected to be one of anger - towards the Indian players because the South African public holds the BCCI responsible for shortening what would have been the headline tour of the summer. Instead, it was resonant with joy. For Quinton de Kock.
From the moment the 20-year old walked out to sing the national anthem, people were cheering for him. He is the only member of South Africa's ODI XI born in this city, and to see him represent it on the biggest stage is a source of great pride for the Johannesburg faithful. As de Kock stood alongside his team-mates, he looked only a little taller than the child whose hand he was holding, and his expression was as innocent. Clothed in a delicate pink, he seemed as harmless as candyfloss. How deceiving some looks can be.
It took three balls for de Kock to dispel all thoughts of tameness when he stepped out to clip Bhuvneshwar Kumar's first delivery, a half-volley, through midwicket. Four balls later, de Kock punctured the gap in the covers, and India's attack knew they were up against a man with a good eye and a powerful arm, not a boy.
Hashim Amla probably went to de Kock at the end of that over and told him to take it easy, as is the job of the senior partner, but it seemed as though de Kock wasn't going to listen. He flashed and missed as much as he pushed and connected.
He seemed to understand the weaknesses of India's bowlers quickly - the struggle to find the right length on an unfamiliar pitch, and a tendency to bowl half-volleys and full tosses - and he knew he could exploit them. Every time he did, that roar grew louder.
Of course, de Kock got lucky on a few occasions. Aggressive batsmen often get those breaks. Against India's best bowler on the day, Mohammad Shami, he inside edged and was fortunate the ball did not go on to his stumps.
De Kock held his own even against the spinners. R Ashwin pitched too short, and de Kock's movement on to the back foot to pull was instinctive. He brought up his 50 off Ashwin, and the noise levels at the Wanderers rose to meet the overhanging thunder.
He raised his bat: first to the changing room, and then to every section of the crowd. To call the cheers a mixture of clapping and chanting would be doing the fans a disservice. They composed a chorus for him.
They would have expected a little more exuberance from their local lad a little later on. But despite having scored his first international ton in a home ODI, de Kock was restrained in his celebrations. He had saved himself for the bowling. He spotted holes in areas India thought they had covered, and widened them. He drove wide of cover, swept high enough to clear short fine leg, and with Amla gave South Africa their first opening century stand in 68 ODIs - a span of three years.
De Kock watched Amla play the ball onto his own stumps and Jacques Kallis offer a tame catch. It was up to him to ensure South Africa did not waste their start. De Kock showed how solid he could be off the first free-hit he was offered. He assumed the position of a lamp - a firm, broad base and a wide ambit for a shade - and swung hard. The ball disappeared into the sunset and landed on the other side of long-on.
De Kock had moved within one scoring shot of a century, and the anticipation was heaving. This crowd demanded instant gratification and wanted to see his hundred off the very next ball. They abandoned the slow clap in favour of one long cheer and it died quickly in obvious disappointment when he only got a single to move to 99.
AB de Villiers handed de Kock the strike immediately. Again, the cheers began and again, the quick silence ensued when de Kock played a defensive prod. Then, he tucked the ball to square leg and ran the single that produced the loudest roar of the day.
If de Kock remembers one thing about his hundred, it will be that sound. It filled the stadium as though it would suffocate it. It rose higher and higher, attempting to lift him off the ground by the sheer power of noise. He remained grounded.
There was no boisterous punch in the air, or dramatic levitation. As the roar grew with impatience, Kock neatly put his bat down, fiddled with his helmet to remove it and then greeted his home crowd.
It was only the 35th over and he would have remembered his captain talking about the need for one player to bat through. He would have known the person to do that was him. So he carried on, giving the crowd more and more reasons to roar. He teed off again against Ravindra Jadeja, went inside-out against Ashwin and blasted Virat Kohli over long-on.
By the time he handed Kohli a return catch, de Kock had done what he needed to. The way AB de Villiers and JP Duminy used that platform to launch a withering assault - scoring 105 off 46 balls with the freedom of escaped prisoners - gave de Kock's innings more value.
That's why part of every roar heard on the night belonged to de Kock. Yes, some of it was reserved for the BCCI, and some of it was for de Villiers and Duminy, but most of it was for the youngest player on the park, who lit up a tour that had been marred by administrators' squabbles.
It wasn't the roar of the usual Wanderers crowd saluting a South African achievement. It was the roar of a community welcoming its favourite son, now all grown up with so much more to achieve.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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