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Match Analysis

South Africa need Quinton de Kock to step up, especially if Faf du Plessis steps down

Big changes are afoot for Wanderers Test as Temba Bavuma recall looms large

Quinton de Kock was out to a poor shot, South Africa v England, 3rd Test, Port Elizabeth, 4th day, January 19, 2020

Quinton de Kock was out to a poor shot  •  Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images

It's time for Quinton de Kock to grow up. The see-ball, hit-ball approach is cute when you're a kid in a high-performing team with a strong top-order, but reckless when you are among the senior-most members of a side in transition.
It's time for Quinton de Kock to show the ability to strategise. The "I-don't-think-about-things-too-much," attitude is nice when you're a cowboy in a team of accountants but cavalier when everyone in your line-up makes a flat St George's Park pitch look like the Wild West.
It's time for Quinton de Kock to take responsibility. The heave-hos can be explained away when you're topping up an innings but become eyesores when you're following-on, on 74 for 4, still 216 runs behind.
Sure, Quinton de Kock is not entirely to blame for the situation South Africa find themselves in at the moment but he is a microcosm for it. As much as confidence, or lack thereof, were identified as the core issue facing the batting line-up in the build-up to this series, there are also technical problems, muddled minds and a lack of proper planning. In de Kock, we saw them all.
After bedding in overnight and watching Vernon Philander's off-stump cartwheel away, de Kock played a lazy waft in the next over and was bowled for the seventh time in his last 13 Test innings. That alone suggests that de Kock needs to get tighter. He also needs to get smarter. In the second innings, with Joe Root rampant, de Kock inexplicably attempted to hoick a ball over backward point but finding a leaping Mark Wood. That was not the shot of a man who is thinking about the consequences of his actions and it can easily look like someone who does not care.
And those who have seen de Kock's reactions when he has done similarly silly things in the past will know that he does care. Deeply. What de Kock needs is to learn to translate that to the crease, to construct and pace an innings, in the same way some of England's batsmen did. Against Keshav Maharaj, England defended until they had built a platform from which to attack. South Africa didn't bother with that. They abseiled on the cliff without the safety cord or the skills to climb.
South Africa played no sweep shots in the first innings at all and only three in the second which makes you wonder what their plans are against spin. It's not enough to say that historically South Africans struggle against spin and that's that. They need to find a way.
They also need to broaden their repertoire and go back to basics, starting with the block. On occasion, there were no defences for England to breach, such as when Philander left a glaring bat-pad gap which Stuart Broad stormed through, Maharaj decided on an irresponsible slog through mid-wicket and bottom-edged onto leg-stump and Kagiso Rabada lamely chipped a ball to mid-off.
If there is an excuse, it's that those players are lower-order batsmen, but it doesn't quite cut it. Philander is regarded as a genuine allrounder and Maharaj and Rabada are both competent. No-one is expecting them to score match-winning hundreds but people do want them to be more discerning, and for that quality to apply throughout the team.
While there was little Pieter Malan or Rassie van der Dussen could do about their dismissals, Dean Elgar played across a Wood delivery it to edge it onto his stumps and Zubayr Hamza was strangled down the leg side for the second time in the series. Hamza may not play again in the series and will likely have to return to the domestic set-up to work on his technique.
That means changes at the Wanderers are inevitable and we already have a fairly clear idea of what they might be. Temba Bavuma and uncapped No.3 Keegan Petersen and left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks have been instructed not to play in the round of first-class fixtures starting on Monday which can only mean that they will link up with the Test squad in Johannesburg on Tuesday. It is likely all three will play the final Test.
Bavuma forced himself into contention with a career-best 180 last week and, after the batting performances in this Test, Bavuma's recall seems all but certain. It's now a case of who South Africa want to leave out. The most obvious candidate is Hamza, who followed his sprightly 39 in the first innings of the first Test with 39 runs in his next five innings combined. Hamza's career is still in its infancy so he should not consider himself discarded entirely. He should use this as a time to reflect, improve and come back, even though he will be in competition with whoever takes his place.
In like-for-like terms, Petersen is the closest replacement, having batted at No.3 and averaged over 40 there in 55 of his 89 first-class matches but if South Africa go that way, they will have to consider if they are ready to hand out their 10th debut in six Tests. Hendricks has to play because Rabada is suspended and there are already four other players - Malan, van der Dussen, Anrich Nortje and Dane Paterson - who have a handful or fewer caps to their names. The need for experience may override the temptation to parachute Petersen in, despite his suitability for Hamza's spot.
But that doesn't mean Bavuma will be installed there either. Bavuma has a better record at No.4 and 5 and is likely to be accommodated in his position of preference, probably No.5, on recall to give him the best chance of success. Still, South Africa will need a No.3.
They can't put van der Dussen there despite the temperament he has shown. Van der Dussen has only played four innings at No.3. So it's likely there has to be a sacrificial lamb holding down the position and don't be surprised if Faf du Plessis decides it will be him.
The pressure and the uncertainty surrounding du Plessis' Test future only increased in this match, where he followed a six-ball score of 8 with a more composed 36 off 123, his highest score in his last eight innings and the most balls he has faced in the last 16. That will not be enough to save this match and will leave South Africa chasing the series next week. All the more reason for de Kock to step up, especially if du Plessis chooses the occasion to step down.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent