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AB on a roll

AB on a roll
He is the top-ranked batsman in the world right now and could be forgiven for carrying an attitude to match. But Abraham Benjamin de Villiers’ humble nature is as endearing as his freakish talent with the bat is entertaining. Nothing sums up his approach better than his remarks while walking off the field after scoring the fastest 150 in ODI history last week against the West Indies at the ongoing ICC World Cup. “A very enjoyable knock today. It was just one of those knocks, a little bit of luck and made it count,” de Villiers said after the match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

After the match, de Villiers summed up the 257-run win, the equal-largest winning margin in World Cup history, by simply saying, “It was our day today, the bounce of the ball went our way and my way and I’m sure the West Indies will bounce back.” At his post-match press conference, he gave much of the credit for South Africa’s massive total to south paw Rilee Rossouw who hit a quickfire half-century.  “I thought he was the guy who started everything for us in the middle of the innings there. I didn’t feel too well when I was walking out to bat, really flat, and he had a lot of energy about him, a lot of intensity. (The ball) wasn’t actually going off the middle of the bat, not all of them,” he said.

However much he might downplay it, de Villiers set the SCG alight. It would be a safe bet to say many Sydney workers took an early mark to make their way to Moore Park, given how much the crowd swelled as his innings wore on. Seemingly breaking records with every ball towards the end of his innings, de Villiers displayed the mix of conventional, unorthodox and simply unbelievable shots he has become famous for, lofting eight sixes and smashing 17 fours. It was the second-fastest World Cup century ever, but it was not even de Villiers’ fastest ton this year, given he smashed 100 off 31 balls against the same opposition in January.

And all this from a man who battled an energy-sapping sickness in the previous 24 hours, and was clearly far from 100 per cent when he took his place in the middle. “You would say (his innings) was unbelievable, but it’s the second time I’ve seen this from AB de Villiers in the space of a month. He’s too humble. He said he just got lucky. Well, it’s the second time I’ve seen him get lucky in the space of a month. He really is a remarkable player. The fact he is rated No.1 is just so justified. He scores 360 degrees around the pitch and as a bowler, I have got to feel sorry for them (because) what they can possibly do,” said de Villiers’ former teammate and ex-South Africa captain Shaun Pollock. The 31-year-old now holds the records for fastest 50, 100 and 150 in ODIs, has 20 hundreds 43 fifties from 175 ODI innings and holds an average of 52.93. The fact that de Villiers has the back-up of incredibly talented and in-form teammates including Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel is the reason South Africa presents such a big threat in the World Cup.

Against the West Indies, Amla (65), Rossouw (61) and du Plessis (62) were also impressive with the bat, while it was Imran Tahir (5-45), Morkel (2-23) and Kyle Abbott (2-37) who did the most damage with the ball, while Steyn (1-24) was the most economical. Given Rossouw and Abbott may not even have played had JP Duminy and Vernon Philander been fit, the Proteas have plenty of options. If there were doubts about the team following its disappointing loss to India in Melbourne, they were vanquished by a dominant display with both bat and ball in Sydney.

While top spot in Pool B is out of South Africa’s control, with India now in the box seat, South Africa will take plenty of confidence into its final two pool matches against Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. With a likely quarterfinal match against either Sri Lanka or England, Pollock believes more magic from de Villiers in the knock-out stages could be the key to the Proteas winning their first World Cup. “There’s no doubt he is a superstar captain leading from the front, what more could you want? He can play those kind of innings and hopefully for South Africa he gets it right in one of the knockout games and gets them over the line,” Pollock said.

Numbers game
AB de Villiers now holds the record for the fastest fifty (16 balls), fastest hundred (31 balls) and fastest 150 (64 balls) in the history of ODIs. The first two records were set against the West Indies at The Wanderers on January 20, 2015, while the fastest 150 was scored against the same opposition at the ongoing World Cup in SCG on February 27, 2015.

All his 20 ODI tons have come at a strike rate of over hundred, a unique record.

AB de Villiers has faced West Indies thrice in World Cups so far & scored a hat-trick of hundreds - 146 in 2007, 107* in 2011 & 162* in 2015.

AB de Villiers has also crossed 3000 ODI runs as a captain. He is the quickest to this landmark, taking only 60 innings to do so. He is the 15th in the list.

AB de Villiers’ 162* against the West Indies at SCG on February 27 is also the fourth highest individual score by a captain in World Cups.

Master of all trades

AB de Villiers was shortlisted for national hockey and football squads, captain of South Africa (SA) junior rugby, is still the holder of six school swimming records, fastest 100m time in SA juniors, member of SA jr Davis Cup team, national badmintion U-19 champ, has golf handicap of scratch, can keep wicket, has even taken four wickets in ODIs. He also received a medal from the late Nelson Mandela for a science project. Is there anything AB can’t do?

When AB bats, the fielders become spectators and the spectators become fielders!” Author Unknown – Shaun Pollock (on Twitter).

He’s someone I’ve always watched and looked up to. He’s an absolute class act, someone that I try to base my game on  – Genn Maxwell.

There are only two games in a year that I dread. The two games I play against AB de Villiers (in the Indian Premier League) – Dale Steyn.
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