“De Villiers’ return to the Test side has been impactful and has done a commendable job in the middle-order. His brain is no ordinary, it is a supercomputer. He has redefined batting and set a benchmark and his willow continues to yield crucial runs”.
A lot has been spoken about the Superman of contemporary cricket, but it is never enough. AB de Villiers keeps his fans excited and never fails to entertain with his extraordinary skills and ability. For some, he is the best batsman to have embraced the game of cricket, while others may have a different opinion about him. He is certainly one of the legends of the game and by the time he is done playing cricket, he will undoubtedly be remembered as the best cricketer from his country to say the least.
The current talks regarding the best Test batsman has mainly been surrounded around Joe Root, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli. But there is one man, who is far superior to all of them when it comes to shot-making abilities. Yes, that man is no other than AB de Villiers. He can manufacture a stroke, which cannot be found in any textbook related to cricket across formats; he can score a maximum off a delivery which is merely impossible for anyone.
Since his return to the Test side in December against Zimbabwe, no other batsman has had more runs under his belt than De Villiers. In 13 innings so far, De Villiers has scored 616 runs at a staggering average of 56, which is also the highest. In fact, his average of 56 is also the highest for South Africa in last 12 months. A lot of those runs came while counter-attacking under immense fire. In the said period, De Villiers has scored six fifties and a century, which means he has done well in every alternate innings.
In the ongoing Test series against South Africa, De Villiers looked in a different zone altogether and played a crucial knock in both the innings. In the first innings, he looked good for a century and rightly deserved one, but was unfortunate to have been dismissed or 64. De Villiers has a knack of playing crucial innings and this summer has been no different. He has played a lot of key knocks for South Africa – against India at Cape Town in both the innings, a tenacious knock at Centurion. His Cape Town innings against India was reminiscent of Aravinda de Silva’s counter-attacking fifty of the 1996 World Cup semi-final. Both the batsmen broke the shackles with some belligerence and lifted their side up when the chips were down.
Against Australia, AB de Villiers has been on a roll – scored an unbeaten 71 at Durban and then a century at Port Elizabeth. And in the ongoing game, he played some fearless brand of cricket; his shot-making abilities were outstanding and did well to smash ten boundaries for his 64 n the first innings. De Villiers always makes batting looks easy. On a pitch, where others might struggle to get going, De Villiers will garner runs at will. And his run in the first innings was no different.
In Test cricket, it is very important to counter-attack when the opposition starts finding a rhythm. A batsman just cannot afford to let the bowling attack to settle down and need to break the shackles. De Villiers is a master in doing this, he scores runs at a brisk pace and unsettles the bowling attack.
Although Dean Elgar looked solid as a rock throughout the innings, but De Villiers made it look like he was batting on a different wicket. His first boundary gave an impression of how well was timing the ball, he carved boundaries out of good deliveries and this innings may not look big in numbers, but was an artistic one. South Africa looked all set for a total of 450 above in the first innings, but a batting collapse didn’t let them achieve fruitful results. The fact that Australia’s batting did struggle to get going on the same pitch, highlights the kind of form De Villiers was in.
Australia pulled things back after De Villiers’ dismissal and turned the game on its head. Dean Elgar also highlighted how De Villiers makes a wicket look extremely batting-friendly when it’s actually not. “That’s the nature of test cricket, for four hours a team can be dominant and for two hours the other team can bounce back and also be dominant and put the test in the balance. The wicket is by no means flat, it might have looked like it when AB was batting, but he does that. They (Australia) identified areas they could exploit. The older ball, which was reversing, makes batting trickier,” Elgar said.
De Villiers showed different intent and temperament in the second innings. While the first innings was all about him taking on the bowlers and playing some attacking cricket, the second was more about calm and composure. De Villiers scored 63 off 136 deliveries and placed his innings sensibly to put South Africa in command. He ensured that the most was made of his good form.
Australia cleaned them up for 373 in the second innings and now have a mountain to climb in chasing 430 in the fourth innings of the match. De Villiers’ return to the Test side has been impactful and has done a commendable job in the middle-order. His brain is no ordinary, it is a supercomputer. He has redefined batting and set a benchmark and his willow continues to yield crucial runs.