“It was an AB show at Newlands and Virat Kohli and India could only sit back and admire the miraculous skill of this sensational batsman. Test cricket missed you, AB. It really did”.
Oh, Test cricket missed you, AB. It missed the swagger and elegance your brought to the wicket, the nonchalance and easiness you bring to any situation and the sheer sight of you leaning into a drive. Test cricket missed you sorely.
For one whole year, the cricketing World was deprived of seeing the Superman in whites, playing mind games with the bowlers and putting them off with his supernatural abilities. But the moment he decided to don the whites again, Test cricket knew that it was blessed to witness this genius from South Africa once another time.
On Friday, the outstanding, mind-blowing, unbelievable AB de Villiers showcased to the World exactly what they missed.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar appeared in exceptional rhythm. He was making the ball talk like an austere police officer would do to a mute criminal. Dean Elgar had swished and gone, Aiden Markram did not even get the freedom to use his bat before the ball thudded into his pads.
Hashim Amla was teased, not once, not twice, but multiple times with balls seaming away. To get the Mighty Hash frustrated you would have to be outrageously good. Bhuvneshwar was. He had Amla at his mercy before the South African no.3 decided to jab at another of those balls seaming away only to nick behind.
In no time, Faf du Plessis’ decision to bat first was looking like a grave mistake. Bhuvneshwar Kumar had ripped apart the South African top order, reducing them to 12/3. It was mind-blowing, riveting Test cricket at Cape Town. And then the moment arrived.
Having watched countless superhero movies, you know the exact time a hero chooses to make his appearance. It is inevitable that he would arrive eventually. And he did, at Newlands, in front of a packed crowd and at a time his side were down and out of the contest.
The sparkling over
Over 8.1 – Bhuvneshwar to de Villiers
Bhuvneshwar bowls a full delivery outside off-stump, swinging away from the right-handed AB de Villiers. Instead of starting of circumspect, the flamboyant batsman throws the kitchen sink at it, driving it through the covers for four.
Over 8.2 – Bhuvneshwar to de Villiers
Another half-volley outside the off-stump and de Villiers crouches as he always does, gets on top of the ball and sends it racing through the vacant cover region. Another boundary.
Over 8.4 – Bhuvneshwar to de Villiers
Bhuvneshwar bowls a short outside off-stump with a bit of room but not enough to give the batsman enough confidence to swish away at it on this wicket. But this is AB de Villiers. He picks it up with a scything cut, doesn’t bother to keep it down and sends it over gully for a boundary. Third boundary of the over and the counter-attack was starting to put Bhuvneshwar off.
Over 8.5 – Bhuvneshwar to de Villiers
The man who was unplayable for nearly 30 balls is flustered by the easiness with which de Villiers was smashing him all over the park. He bowls a nothing short delivery on off-stump that de Villiers nonchalantly slaps through point for yet another boundary.
The South African nudged a single off the final ball to complete a 17-run over. No, it had not come off the off-colour Mohammad Shami from the other end. de Villiers had taken the bull by its horn.
He had disrupted India’s rhythm but breaking Bhuvneshwar’s. The game wouldn’t be the same for the rest of the day. In the company of Faf du Plessis, de Villiers continued to dig into the Indian bowlers, going by the mantra that ‘attack is the best form of defence’.
He had seen the batsmen above him succumb to indecisiveness and decided to go out with a positive mindset. Unlike any of the other batsman in the day, de Villiers always took a full strode forward, committing himself into each shot and transferring the pressure back onto the Indians.
By taking on Bhuvneshwar, he had not just made a statement but also set the tone for South Africa’s revival. Alongside du Plessis, he put on a century partnership that wrestled back the momentum South Africa’s way.
“AB is best in the world. His counter-attack hurt us. It’s going to be tough. We knew this is a kind of situation we’d have to tackle”, Bhuvneshwar admitted after the day’s play.
That is the thing about AB de Villiers. You know exactly what he brings to the table. But nothing, nothing at all, can prepare you for the calamitous fulmination that it turns out into.
It was an AB show at Newlands and Virat Kohli and India could only sit back and admire the miraculous skill of this sensational batsman. Test cricket missed you, AB. It really did.