Sri Lanka in SA
AB develops 'nineties' trend
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – AB de Villiers has become the sixth South African and 87th instance overall of a batsman being dismissed for the unfortunate 99 in a Test innings.
Friday’s occurrence on day two of the Proteas’ first Test against Sri Lanka at Centurion was the first time in his 117 knocks at this level that the 27-year-old stroke-player has fallen on that score.
But it is still 99 times better than registering nought, as the sages say -- and he was the pivotal batsman in ensuring that South Africa ended play (before a very welcome, sun-soaked audience of some 10 000) thoroughly in control on a pitch that remained challenging.
The Proteas held a first-innings lead of 209 with sprightly last-wicket pair Mark Boucher and Imran Tahir yet to be dislodged ... and the former no doubt very desirous of the opportunity to add, at the very least, the one further run he required to get to a timely half-century and typically keep his critics at bay once more.
For someone who already boasts 12 centuries, and two of those doubles, it is unlikely that the eternally crowd-pleasing De Villiers will have lost too much sleep about his dismissal a fraction short of three figures, although it would have been nice to add a first personal ton against the Lankans to his burgeoning list – he has only played three Tests against these foes but nevertheless averages 63.20 against them right now.
Still, he has been dismissed in the 90s six times in Tests, with three of these instances being at his home ground of SuperSport Park.
The first time was in only his fifth Test match, against England in 2004/05, when he was snared for 92 in South Africa’s first innings, but then more than made up for the disappointment in the second dig, smashing 109 for his maiden century and truly signalling his arrival as an international factor against a strong visiting pace attack.
And the last occasion at Centurion was against New Zealand, when he was out for 97, in April 2006.
He has one prior experience of just failing to reach a century against the Lankans: the decisive second and final Test at Colombo in August of that same year when he notched a 95.
It was a classic Test match with the Proteas, 1-0 down and going all out to square the series, able to set Sri Lanka a demanding fourth-innings target of 352 but the hosts sneaking over the line with one wicket to spare to earn a 2-0 sweep.
Had De Villiers got to his ton on Friday, and then advanced to 114, he would have also reached the landmark of 5000 personal Test runs, although that milestone clearly is just around the corner and still achievable in this match if South Africa are, in fact, required to bat again – there’s got to be a fair chance they won’t?
Instead the attacking right-hander, who batted with commendable tightness and common sense a lot of the time on Friday, became the 87th batsman in Test history to be sent packing on 99 and the sixth South African.
His compatriots on the list are -- from most recent -- Neil McKenzie, Jacques Kallis, Trevor Goddard, Bruce Mitchell and Aubrey Faulkner.
When McKenzie was the last South African sufferer of this fate, in March 2002 at Newlands, the famously superstitious player was trying to complete a risky run to earn his first Test ton against then-mighty Australia, but Damien Martyn’s direct hit cruelly foiled his quest.
De Villiers may well not be too fidgety about these trifling things ...