AB de Villiers spent his Sunday afternoon doing wonders for breaking down gender stereotypes involving the colour pink and redefining modern-day batting once again. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
If you didn’t spend Sunday afternoon running out of superlatives to describe AB de Villiers, then you must lead a pretty miserable existence. While most people would have been spending their time nursing the weekend’s over-indulgence or doing something distinctly ordinary, De Villiers was busy breaking records.
In a blistering display of batting, the kind that would make even the likes of Sir Vivian Richards do a double take, De Villiers blasted 149 off just 44 balls as South Africa amassed 439 runs in 50 overs after being stuck in to bat at the Wanderers.
The batting track in question was the same hallowed one on which the 438-9 match played out nine years ago, and while it didn’t yield the same end result for the team chasing, it did produce one of the finest batting innings we are likely to ever witness in our lifetime.
If the West Indies thought they had problems when Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw combined for a 247-run opening partnership, they had no clue what was coming. Rossouw, who has been under quite some pressure to score runs, notched up a tidy century. Despite, for the most part, looking like a chameleon on a Rubik’s cube, Rossouw made the most of his luck and supported Amla well as the runs continued to flow for the hosts.
But whatever Rossouw and Amla can do, De Villiers can do better. When he strolled to the crease, South Africa were 247-1 with just over 11 overs remaining in their innings.
“I’ll just have a look for the first over,” he said to his batting partner Amla.
De Villiers’ definition of just having a look is not of this planet, though, and he started off his innings with a four. That’s all the looking he needed. From there on, destruction flowed from his bat as if he had unlocked a real-life cheat mode. Just 16 balls later he had broken the record for the fastest-ever 50 in the one-day format. No matter what the West Indies tried, De Villiers had an answer. That answer usually involved some kind of extravagant shot for six. Even the 140km/h full tosses were reverse paddled. Another 15 balls later De Villiers had 50 more runs, this time also breaking the record for the fastest ODI century. It took him just 31 balls, five deliveries faster than the previous record set by Corey Anderson. Had he managed to take a run off the ball which eventually dismissed him, his third 50 of his innings would have come from just 13 balls.
De Villiers looted his way to 149 off 44 balls, still laughing, standing, talking and breathing while those watching reacted to shock either with manic laughter or stunned silence. Most astonishingly, perhaps, is that seven of those 44 deliveries were dot balls and a further seven were singles. Five others resulted in running twos between the wickets so 57 percent of the balls he faced went across the ropes. The carnage lasted just 59 minutes.
He also equalled the record for most sixes in an ODI innings and the 17.2 runs per over rate of the Amla-De Villiers partnership was the highest ever for a 100-plus run partnership against any Test playing nation. His strike rate of 339 was the first time a batsman scored a ton at a 300-plus strike-rate.
If you weren’t actually watching you would not believe what you were told, even if you knew exactly what De Villiers is capable of. He scored 149 runs of the 192-run stand he shared with Amla. Then, as if he didn’t already make everyone feel uncomfortable enough about the worthiness of their existence, he walked out to captain and keep wicket.
De Villiers redefined batting on Sunday. While modern-day batting has improved tremendously thanks to the way the game has evolved and due to far more batsmen-friendly pitches, it still takes an extraordinary person to achieve what De Villiers managed.
In his current form, there is no better batsman than De Villiers. His ability to consistently innovate and adapt is unmatched. His ability to score boundaries all around the wicket, no matter which ground he plays at, is extraordinary. He is a genius and a revolutionary and if there were ever any doubt about just how important he is to the South African line-up, those doubts have now surely been shattered.
That is why it is so important for South Africa to make sure they manage their key man ahead of a tournament like the World Cup. On a number of occasions, coach Russell Domingo has mentioned that he is cautious about De Villiers keeping in the one-day format due to his back problem. Of course injuries are part of the game, but ahead of a competition like the World Cup, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
With South Africa now 2-0 up in the five-match series against the West Indies, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to rest De Villiers for the next two matches, and then bring him back for the fifth and final match if he is required. Morne van Wyk is more than adequate with both bat and gloves, and can deputise while De Villiers takes a breather. That is, of course, if he will allow himself to do so. Because after his performance on Sunday, there is no doubt that De Villiers is more fired up than ever, and for the South African skipper, the World Cup can’t come soon enough. DM
Photo: South Africa’s captain, AB de Villiers, hits a delivery during the second One-Day International (ODI) against the West Indies at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg January 18, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko