Caught some of the South Africa innings in their game vs Australia at Melbourne going on today, and had the pleasure of watching one of the modern batting greats at the crease. AB De Villiers is something of an enigma in cricket these days in that he plays all three formats, which is almost unheard of with the brutal schedule of this era. Not only that, he also keeps wicket in Test matches and is the current captain. Plus, when not keeping, he bowls a bit of medium pace on occasion. Which makes his record, particularly in ODIs, astonishing.
His ODI record since 2009 is nothing short of incredible. The stats just keep on going. An average approaching 66 from 83 innings. 15 hundreds. 22 fifties. And all this with a strike rate above a run a ball at 104.48.
Now from this you make think of AB as a slogger. But this would be doing the guy a great disservice. He scored 91 in his innings today, from 88 balls. (A strike rate right around his 5 year average), and with 6 fours. He is a master of rotating the strike and turning singles into twos and twos into threes. His ability to constantly pick up runs, no matter who the bowler, is absolutely pivotal to the South African cause. It keeps pressure on the bowlers throughout the so-called ‘tricky’ overs from 20-35 when the fielding side is trying to sneak through overs quickly, usually by bowling spin. He is also a very urgent and instinctive runner between the wickets, taking advantage of every slight misfield to add another run to the total. It’s a quiet sort of dominance too – the bowling side think that they have him under wraps due to the lack of boundaries they are conceding. Then suddenly there are 10 overs to go and South Africa are sitting on 200+.
This is not to say that AB can’t play the more destructive role. He batted at 4 today but has played up and down the order throughout his career, often coming in for the big hitting overs at the end of an ODI innings. His T20 record is none too shabby either (a recent innings of 69 from 28 balls at a strike rate of 246 against my country England in the recent World T20 is a pretty good indication of what he can do). It was an innings full of power and innovation – reverse paddle sweeps and a couple of extraordinary shots down the ground.
And all of this without mentioning his Test average which is above 50, the benchmark of the very best. A truly special player who will go down as one of the best players this game has seen.
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