Birmingham – South Africa’s captain and traditionally most explosive batsman AB de Villiers has lasted only six minutes and four balls at the crease in the ICC Champions Trophy so far.
The No 1-ranked ODI batsman in the world – though David Warner was breathing right down his neck at the time of writing -- suffered his first single-figure dismissal (four runs) in 12 one-day international knocks in the Proteas’ victorious opener against Sri Lanka, falling to a slightly inelegant and badly mistimed heave against leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna.
It made him the only really notable failure among the highly-regarded South African top seven at The Oval that day.
He is the kind of player South Africans and neutral alike want to see healthy doses of, especially as his prosperous, always entertainment-laden career has reached its “advanced” stage at international level and his future contains some uncertainties.
There are no special issues regarding his form, considering that he has gone at least 40-plus in seven of those dozen innings already mentioned, even if it is now 20 turns at the ODI crease since he last registered a ton, his 24th, against England at Newlands in February last year – a series-sealing effort.
Centuries don’t grow on trees, of course, but sooner rather than later, you would nevertheless imagine, he will inevitably add his own name to long-time colleague Hashim Amla’s feat of becoming first South African to 25 centuries in the format during last Saturday’s dismantling of the ‘Lankans.
Whether it is a truly big ‘un or not, the chances of De Villiers prospering in Champs Trophy game two for the Proteas at Edgbaston here on Wednesday against Pakistan (14:30 SA time) are bright, considering his sparkling recent history against these foes.
He has played more ODIs against the Pakistanis (31) than any other country and, with 1,423 runs at an average of almost 62, also scored more heavily against them than anyone else.
Even more hopefully in terms of his prospects on Wednesday, De Villiers has especially revelled in his last five innings against Pakistan, where he has amassed 324 runs with two not-outs at a blistering average of 108.
The last time he encountered their attack was at the 2015 World Cup, where he was the only Proteas batsman to come off in a meaningful way with 77 in a surprisingly failed pursuit of a 232-run target in Auckland; South Africa lost by 29 runs although they went onward to become semi-finalists.
Before that, his scores against Pakistan had been 48 not out at Centurion, 74 at Port Elizabeth, 10 at Cape Town and 115 not out at Sharjah.
*Rob Houwing is attending the Champions Trophy for Sport24. Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing