Slotting into the test side after the shock retirement of Quinton de Kock, Kyle Verreynne had big shoes to fill in replacing a team leader, wicketkeeper and heavy hitter in the South African setup.
On Monday, Verreynne relieved much of that pressure with a sparkling, unbeaten 136 that put his team in the box seat for a series-levelling victory in the second Test in Christchurch.
Big things had been expected of the 24-year-old, who boasts a first class average above 50 and has piled on the runs for Western Province.
It was therefore something of a disappointment that runs proved elusive during his first five Tests.
There was a touch of impatience from South African fans after he squandered two starts in the heavy series-opening defeat.
After scoring four in the first innings of the second Test, another failure might have turned that impatience into criticism.
Instead, Verreynne found form at the right time after joining Temba Bavuma late on day three with South Africa at 103 for four and the match in the balance.
Surviving a nervous phase to reach stumps at 22 not out, he resumed on Monday morning, watchfully at first, but finished the day thrashing New Zealand’s weary pace bowlers to all points of Hagley Oval.
In between, he anchored a partnership with Wiaan Mulder (35) and a thrilling 78-run stand with tailender Kagiso Rabada (47) before pulling Matt Henry to the fence for four to bring up his maiden century.
While righthander Verreynne is a different batter to his lefthanded predecessor, it was an innings the swashbuckling De Kock would have approved of.
“Obviously (De Kock’s) retirement came as a shock to all of us, but I think pretty much from the next day, they all have given me that support and that backing that this is my spot,” Verreynne said of his coaches and team mates.
“I understand that there’s always going to be those expectations to live up to what he’s done.”
“But I think I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been backed and I’ve got that sense that I’ve got time and I just need to be myself.”
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