Quinton de Kock was South Africa's top-scorer with an aggressive 84 on Day 1 of 1st Test vs Australia    Getty Images
Quinton de Kock was South Africa’s top-scorer with an aggressive 84 on Day 1 of 1st Test vs Australia Getty Images

While the cricketing world is busy adoring modern-day greats Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steven Smith and Joe Root there is another batsman who is ticking all the boxes at a young age of 23. With South Africa slumping to 32 for 4 and being further reduced to 81 for 5 on Day One of first Test versus Australia, in walked wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock. To face a daunting pair of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood is a tough ask in itself, but the way de Kock took them on showed the kind of mindset he possesses. The youngster got out for 84 off 101 balls but his innings deserved more and gave a glimpse of his ever growing stature. LIVE CRICKET SCORECARD: Australia vs South Africa, 1st Test at WACA, Perth

Not the start South Africa would have desired:

Winning the toss at Perth stand-in skipper Faf du Plessis elected to bat. South Africa were off to a perilous start in the series opener. The third ball of the match found the edge of Stephen Cook s blade off Starc and Mitchell Marsh took a blinder at slip. The Proteas slumped further as Hashim Amla was dismissed in a similar fashion. JP Duminy played close to the body and edged to wicketkeeper Peter Nevill. Wickets tumbled with Starc bowling in full steam and Hazlewood showing his accuracy along and pitching short at times to keep batsmen guessing.

There was uncertainty in the middle with Duminy, Dean Elgar, Amla and Cook not looking too sure. The pitch had bounce and pace, and the new-ball bowlers were getting the ball to swerve. If Hazlewood was keeping it close to the body, Starc was generating enough pace at the deck. Peter Siddle also bowled in the off side which added to batsmen s woes. Du Plessis timed from the middle but eventually fell for 37. Temba Bavuma stuck his end for a gritty 51. But what difference did de Kock make in the middle?

De Kock s counter-aggression stood the test of time:

De Kock is known to be a run-machine on tracks where the ball comes nicely onto the bat. The Day One pitch at WACA had excessive pace and bounce. The ball was skidding onto the surface and making it difficult for the batsmen. Bavuma got his eye in, but was overshadowed by de Kock s blistering 84. While du Plessis edged one to the slips and fell against the flow of runs, Bavuma was ready to battle it out. He got nasty deliveries on his ribcage due to awkward bounce coupled with his short height. He displayed courage to sweat it out, but one essential factor was missing from his innings. Bavuma did not counterattack which cost him in the end. He stepped out cautiously against Nathan Lyon but worked hard to pile on runs against pacers.

On the other hand, de Kock played several blazing strokes since his arrival. It almost seemed he was batting since the beginning or had read the pitch well while sitting out in the dugout. He played the ball on the up, was comfortable against the rising deliveries and timed everything from the sweet spot of the willow. De Kock s back knee bent a little. With his weight fully forward, he crunched some beautiful cover drives off half-volleys and pulled nonchalantly against short pitched balls.

The difference

What du Plessis and Bavuma couldn t do was that they did not take a liking towards a particular bowler. De Kock scored against every bowler (he smashed a six off Starc while took on others from time to time as well) and kept the scoreboard ticking. Bavuma was not at ease churning out runs despite a hard earned half-century whereas de Kock did the same at will. He did not get bogged by Starc s pace, Hazlewood s reverse swing and accuracy. He resisted edging balls outside off from Siddle. Even his edges went to the fence in no time, showing his power. De Kock even shuffled a bit to steer the gaps in the field and gave the full swing to the red leather. His innings was a class apart from how his contemporaries applied themselves in the 22 yards.

He eventually fell for a slow and short pitched ball by playing close to the body. Hazlewood finally saw the back of him when de Kock started losing partners and tried playing the extravagant shots from his end. He again tried moving back at the crease but did not adjust well to the stroke. It was his innings which gave South Africa some sort of score. Proteas reached 242 and even though Australia reached 105 for no loss at stumps, if South African bowlers turn things around and register a win, like they did four years back posting 225 on the same venue, they will have to give credit to de Kock’s attacking innings.

At this age, how did the modern-day greats fare?

The cricketing fraternity is in constant awe of the likes of Kohli, Williamson, Smith and Root, but South Africa seem to have a trump card in form of de Kock who clobbers at opportunities and is turning the heat constantly with consistent performances. In 2016, de Kock has averaged 78.40 with a hundred and 3 fifties. If we look at the averages of Root, Williamson, Kohli and Smith at 23, it read 97.12, 66.13, 52.25 and 40.25 respectively. This gives us a clear picture where de Kock is heading. He is hovering around the big league and knocking its doors with vital knocks from time to time. He bats much lower than the modern-day greats at No. 7 and if he is promoted up the order, he may be able to make resounding a statement.

Seeing all this and especially how easily accumulates runs, the batting responsibility may ultimately fall upon his inexperienced shoulders. It was witnessed how desperately Australians were in hunt of de Kock s scalp. He is an impact player who can tilt the match in his side s favour and is gaining confidence from every knock. The bounce and pace on offer in Australia may well result in a high scoring series for the left-hander. If he curbs his habit of throwing starts and does the repair work more often than not for his side, he may well go onto cementing his place for long in Tests.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)