“This series will be one to remember”.
AB de Villiers had replied to a tweet that showed video footages of the Warner – de Kock stairwell saga. Even as heated debates went on about how Warner should be banned, how de Kock was innocent, why du Plessis should have worn a shirt and whether Tom Paine had enough muscles to lift David Warner, AB de Villiers decided that it was time to let go of the fabulous short films he had orchestrated in the last few months and stamped his presence in the series with a mind-blowing, counter-attacking 22nd Test ton, and one of his best to-date.
This series will be one to remember
— AB de Villiers (@ABdeVilliers17) March 5, 2018
One could hardly be forgiven for missing this de Villiers masterclass. It had the flamboyance of Brian Lara, defence right from Geoffrey Boycott’s manual, elegance that only Tendulkar was familiar with in the cricketing world and splendour of a genius talent who was born to hold a bat.
Right from the moment, de Villiers walked in to bat, the ball game changed completely. The Aussies who had managed to silence Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar in a gritty display of batting, were suddenly chasing leather as de Villiers unfurled his wide repertoire of shots.
Those of the puzzled Protea fans who were lavish in praise of Elgar and Amla till that very moment started criticising the duo after watching de Villiers bat like a dream on the same surface. They could be forgiven for Amla and Elgar were ordinary pupils in the world of cricket. To do what de Villiers did, they had to be genius’ born with a golden bat that came pre-installed with all shots in the batting manual.
Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc roared, Josh Hazlewood was niggardly, Nathan Lyon was forgotten…de Villiers made them all obscure with his outrageous confidence at the crease. Anything short and wide was slapped, anything on his legs were flicked and anything good was defended back with intent.
Not for a moment did the South African appear out of control. He danced down to Nathan Lyon and made him a forgotten entity on a surface where he was supposed to Australia’s main weapon. He swept, he ran, he swiped, he pulled, he drove and he made runs…plenty of them.
At Durban, he had little to no support from the tail owing to a few mistakes of his own. At Port Elizabeth, Vernon Philander wasn’t going to deny the crowd another de Villiers’ special. He hung around determinedly, defended like a top-order batsman and let de Villiers do the talking.
Even as wickets fell around him like nine pins on day 2 to reverse swing, de Villiers was barely perturbed. It seemed like he could read the degree of swing, the amount of bounce, the angle of seam movement way before the ball had been delivered. With Starc’s 150kmph balls and Cummins grille-mashers, de Villiers was in position ages ago. He got behind the line of the ball perfectly, rolled his wrists over the ball when bounced and batted with the vigour of a boy entering college for the first time.
His eyes dazzled, his feet danced and his bat talked. Boy, did it talk!
To leave an attack of Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, Marsh and Lyon high and dry requires some skill. de Villiers at Port Elizabeth was a master at work, compiling his best art, undisturbed, in little haste, with all the time in the World. He brushed stroke after stroke, dipped into the right colours in the palette and painted the perfect picture. The others – bowlers from the opposition, the enthralled fans, his own colleagues – were all eye-witness to an art of the highest quality.
AB de Villiers Test 💯 against Australia
106* @ Perth 2008
104* @ Johannesburg 2009
163 @ Cape Town 2009
169 @ Perth 2012
116 @ Port Elizabeth 2014
126* @ Port Elizabeth 2018
Most Test 💯 by any South African batsman against Australia@ABdeVilliers17 #SAvAus
— JSK (@imjsk27) March 11, 2018
.”AB jou lekker ding (AB you good thing)!” chanted the excited crowd. They had witnessed him make a ton last time Australia were here at this ground. They had witnessed him grind over the Aussies millions of times. This was his sixth century in Test cricket against Australia, the most by any South African.
Yet, by the end of his onslaught (if one may call beautifully orchestrated Test match knocks that), de Villiers left Port Elizabeth in a tizzy. Australians, including that Bradman-esque Steven Smith, were gaping in awe. To witness an innings of such breathtaking propositions is a rarity in cricket these days. The World thanks, AB de Villiers for choosing cricket one another time. Here is a man cricket needs more than he needs cricket! Behold, admire, enjoy and re-watch a million times. The beauty of the knock never dies.