De Kock spares South Africa’s blushes with crucial 80 in a 94-ball knock on Day 1

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DURBAN, February 14 – A counter-attacking innings of 80 from Quinton de Kock helped rescue South Africa on Day 1 of their first Test against Sri Lanka in Durban on Wednesday.

The Proteas, who were put in to bat, were bowled out for 235, before Sri Lanka finished the day on 49/1, trailing South Africa by 186 runs.

De Kock’s recovery job came after Sri Lanka’s seamers enjoyed an excellent morning, wreaking havoc with the new ball.

Dean Elgar fell for a duck in the second over of the day, the impressive Vishwa Fernando finding the outside edge of the left-hander’s bat, with Niroshan Dickwella taking the catch behind the stumps.

Hashim Amla (3), in trying to leave the ball, managed to guide the ball to second slip off the bowling of Suranga Lakmal, before Fernando bowled Aiden Markram (11) through the gate to have South Africa reeling at 17/3.

Faf du Plessis and Temba Bavuma halted the prospect of a major collapse, putting on 71, before the captain du Plessis (35) fell edging the ball down the leg side to hand Dickwella his second dismissal.

After the break, de Kock joined Bavuma at the crease but their partnership would end in unfortunate circumstances. A drive back down the ground from de Kock was halted by Fernando’s foot, which navigated the ball towards the stumps, knocking the bails off with Bavuma stranded outside the crease.

Despite the right-hander’s best efforts of getting back to his crease, extensive TV replays saw to the conclusion that he was out – a cruel blow for the batsman, who was three runs short of a half-century.

With South Africa’s bowlers left to support him, De Kock opted to display his fluent strokeplay – a couple of brazen reverse-sweeps off debutant spinner Lasith Embuldeniya were particularly eye-catching.

De Kock received some valiant support from Keshav Maharaj (29) and Dale Steyn (15), as he helped South Africa to a score of respectability. He was to be the last man to depart, top-edging one high into the air off Rajitha’s bowling, with Fernando completing an excellent day in the field with a well-taken catch.

Sri Lanka’s openers emerged to face the music against the new-ball duo of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander. While runs emerged from the blade of Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne fell for a 15-ball duck, Steyn finding the outside edge of the bat – de Kock obliging with the catch behind the stumps.

A near run-out chance off the bowling of Elgar – with confusion between the two batsmen over a potential single – nearly resulted in the dismissal of Oshada Fernando, playing his maiden Test knock.

Oshada looked to have luck on his side, however – an attempted heave off of Maharaj saw a bottom edge run away for four past leg stump.

Bad light brought to a premature end to the day’s play, one that could have been a lot worse for South Africa had de Kock not obliged with a timely innings.  (ANA)