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Rabada to Hendricks: 'They're about ten runs short'

Hendricks suggested that SA's record chase of 259 against WI was "equivalent to the 438 game"

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks struck up a 152-run opening stand off just 65 balls  •  AFP/Getty Images

Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks struck up a 152-run opening stand off just 65 balls  •  AFP/Getty Images

"They're about ten runs short."
Legend has it those were Jacques Kallis' words to his team-mates when they got back to their dressing room on March 12, 2006 after South Africa conceded 434 against Australia. South Africa went on to complete a record chase in a match that remains iconic to this day.
"They're about ten runs short."
Reeza Hendricks confirmed that's exactly what Kagiso Rabada said on March 26, 2023, after South Africa were blasted for 258 by West Indies in the second T20I. South Africa went on to complete a record chase which Hendricks, one of the architects of their win, "would suggest is equivalent to the 438 game."
And it is. Apart from going where no team has gone before, South Africa's win in both the 438 game and 259 T20I (which is what we will now call it) demonstrated the art of possibility in white-ball cricket, if conditions allow. A flat SuperSport Park pitch, which Quinton de Kock described to the broadcasters as "a road," a high-altitude venue, which allows the ball to fly through the air faster than it would elsewhere, and small boundaries all played their part in creating this contest, which, despite the overall number of runs (517) and sixes (35) was not just a slugfest.
Batters on both sides struck what Hendricks called "good cricket shots," to prove Aiden Markram's point that, "when you speak about the attacking brand of cricket, it doesn't mean you have to slog everything." In fact, West Indies centurion Johnson Charles specifically addressed how he approached stroke-play for his first T20I hundred. "With such a good pitch on a small field you don't have to overhit the ball," Charles said.
In other words: keep it simple. After spending six years between 2016 and 2022 out of the West Indian side, Charles went through a period of soul searching," and concluded that the only way he would get back into the side was to "make sure I have my basics on the down low."
He was also given the freedom to do his thing. "We tell him to go hard. We give him the licence to hit," Rovman Powell confirmed. And hit it he did. Charles struck 106 runs - 10 fours and 11 sixes - in boundaries in the 46 balls he faced, and the bulk of them were on the leg side. His use of his feet and wrists were hallmarks of his innings and, with plenty of width on offer, he was also able to use the room to carve the ball through the off side. It's the aerial drives that he enjoyed the most, especially the one he played off Sisanda Magala to bring up three figures. "The shot that brought up the hundred was special," he said. "Being able to hit a six over cover is not easy. It felt very good."
Even after shots like that, Charles was wary that West Indies may not have enough runs. "We got to that point so we could expect they could get to that point," he said.
As the powerplay unfolded, South Africa's opening pair justified his dose of realism. De Kock and Hendricks scored 102 runs in the first six overs, and de Kock was responsible for almost two-thirds of them. "That's the Quinny I know. That's how he plays. The wicket allowed for his stroke play and it was one of those days that he found the middle," Hendricks said.
De Kock revealed that, like Charles, his game plan was simple in a situation that could have overawed South Africa. "I just wanted to pick the right options. I said to the coach we just need a bit of hope," he said.
He wasn't alone in that thinking. "We never doubted ourselves at any stage. We believed we had the batters in the team to go out and chase the score so guys were quietly confident," Hendricks said, and he included himself in that. When de Kock was dismissed, after scoring a hundred he "had been searching for," Hendricks kept going, brought up his fifth half-century in seven T20I innings and took South Africa 66 runs away from the win. "He was quite the silent assassin," de Kock said of Hendricks. "When he got out, I said to him, 'Jeez we did something really special.' We are very proud of that."
In a series being played at the end of what has already been a memorable summer for South African cricket, the national men's team are starting to show glimpses of the brand they have been advocating for a few years. They've gone from calling it smart cricket and then brave under Mark Boucher to steering away from naming it under Shukri Conrad and Rob Walter (who expressly advised against calling it "Wallyball") and instead to just playing it. In its early stages, it seems to be working but no one is getting too far ahead of themselves. "I don't think everything has sunk in it. It was unbelievable," Hendricks said.
South African fans may agree. A season that started with the disappointment of losing to Netherlands at the T20 World Cup is ending well at home, with some record-breaking to boot. If only South Africa had not parked the bus when they were chasing 458 to win a Test against India at the Wanderers in 2013, South Africa would hold the record for the highest chase in every format. Perhaps that day will still come.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket