At press conferences, AB de Villiers sits next to Quinton de Kock, and watches de Kock talk with the admiration of a big brother at the success of the little one. Jokes are shared, comments are made, and fun is had. In Centurion, in similar company of the captain, de Kock joined de Villiers as one of the only five players to have score three successive centuries in ODI cricket. Not only that, de Kock broke the record for most runs in a bilateral three-match series, following which de Villiers brought up his own hundred. Looking at the ease with which they punished the Indian bowling in that 171-run stand, you could hardly tell they had come together at 28 for 3 after India had finally shown up on this tour. However, India were spared another big chase as persistent rain forced play to be called off without a ball bowled in the second innings.
That sighting of India was brief: they dropped de Kock on 37 and 43, the spinners became flat after a few good overs, and the quicks barring Ishant Sharma served up their usual length bowling in the end to concede 185 in the last 23 overs. De Villiers, in particular, was severe, doing as he wished to the bowlers on a pitch was slow and two-paced because of the moisture it had retained from all the rain over the past week.
This was India's best chance to create an impression in the series. The ball stopped, there was some seam movement and turn, and South Africa had rested Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis. All that did seem to be working for them: Hashim Amla got out to a leg-side full toss, and Henry Davids and JP Duminy fell to some seam and some extra bounce in one Ishant over. Considering the situation, de Kock might rate this century better than the previous two, but he did benefit from fielding errors in the formative stages of the partnership.
De Kock had played a few punchy drives down the ground, and it was proving to be difficult to get the timing right. As the balls became softer and spin came on, it seemed India could employ a tight hold on the batsmen. De Kock was 37 off 49 when he tried to pull an Umesh Yadav halftracker, which ended up dragging to the left of short fine leg where Ajinkya Rahane spilled it. Three overs later, he gave R Ashwin the charge, but the ball stopped a touch, and his lob went towards long-on. Yuvraj Singh ran back from mid-on, seemed to have over-run it, slowed down, got two hands to it, but never had the stability you need to catch them over your head.
De Kock was 43 then, the partnership 52, and South Africa were only just recovering. Soon, though, the fight seemed to have left the bowlers. Ravindra Jadeja wasn't effective, Ashwin began to drop short, and the runs began to flow. It was in the 28th over that the two batsmen really began to cut loose. A short ball from Ashwin was cut for four to take de Kock to 70 off 88. At 36 off 55, de Villiers, too, was about to open up. By the time the Powerplay came about, de Villiers had crossed his fifty, and de Kock was on 98, with South Africa on 168 for 3.
De Villiers just stood and swung and he got the balls to do so. There were some lovely effortless hits too, the sweep off Ashwin for six and also the chip over extra cover off the same bowler. There was one difficult chance for Yuvraj running back from mid-off, but he couldn't catch de Villiers. De Kock fell after bringing up the hundred, de Villiers too, but it failed to slow the rate down.
Shami and Yadav bowled well in the 48th and the 49th over, but both ended the overs with full tosses. David Miller was there to accept all the gifts, and his 56 off 34 took South Africa past 300.