Cape Town - They have had genuinely golden
summers in one-day internationals and more broadly for their respective
countries: now it’s just a matter of whether AB de Villiers and Steve Smith can
sustain their riotous form through the 2015 World Cup.
That event is the culmination of the
2014/15 season on this side of the equator, and if they do keep their mojo, it
will only help enhance the well-rooted belief that co-hosts Australia, and
traditional arch-rivals South Africa, are smartest bets for winning the
tournament in conditions that should generally be favourable and familiar to
These outfits avoid each other in the pool
stage, but may well lock horns in a knockout humdinger from the last eight
Smith and De Villiers are likeliest
occupants of the key No 4 berths in their respective sides, and are guaranteed
to go into the event riding a wave of blistering ODI form in what you could
call the traditional southern hemisphere season, which begins from October.
Not only that, but each stroke-player has
also dazzlingly illuminated Test cricket in 2014/15, just adding to the
prospect that their instinctive abilities to thrill audiences with a mixture of
the orthodox and outrageous in run-making will seep into the World Cup in a
Proteas captain De Villiers is almost
certainly “done” with his ODI obligations for the season ahead of CWC 2015,
given his expected game off in the dead-rubber fifth and final clash with West
Indies at Centurion on Wednesday.
Fellow right-hander Smith, meanwhile, has
one further opportunity to feast before the tournament, as the Aussies are a
confirmed presence in Sunday’s Perth final of the tri-series also featuring
India and England.
Not even a rare failure there will too
significantly damage Smith’s ODI form this season: as things stand, he has
piled up 630 runs (three centuries, three half-tons) in 10 appearances since
early October at an average of 78.75.
Yet he is still overshadowed by De Villiers
who, in as many games for South Africa, has amassed 679 runs (one century, five
half measures including four of minimum 80 runs) at 84.87.
During this mutually productive time, they
went head to head for a few matches in the five-match series between their
sides on Australian soil, with their influence still reaching amazing heights.
Smith had the last laugh from a team point
of view, as the hosts won 4-1, and he contributed 254 runs at 84.66.
Once again, though, he was eclipsed for
total runs by De Villiers, who posted 271, albeit at a lower average of 67.75
as he was dismissed one extra time.
Hogging the crease hasn’t only been a
characteristic in 50-overs international combat for the duo this season; their
Test records have been even more weighty statistically.
Smith had rather more exposure to the
format - something that may irk a few South African traditionalists - as
Australia played six Tests in the southern summer to the Proteas’ three.
He took full advantage: the 25-year-old, in
series away to Pakistan and home to India, bludgeoned four tons and four
half-centuries across 12 knocks, for a Bradmanesque summer Test-match average
Admittedly from a mere three innings - all
at home - against the limited West Indians, De Villiers cashed in on his
limited 2014/15 exposure to the format to assemble 310 runs (including two big
centuries) at a superior average to Smith of 103.
There will be several other claimants to
the category of potential batting dominators at the World Cup, including South
Africa’s serene maestro Hashim Amla (he had an even more fruitful Test series
personally against West Indies than De Villiers did), the contrastingly
truculent Aussie David Warner and - buoyed by a glittering four centuries in
the four Tests against the Baggy Greens on their own soil - India’s prolific
But if you look at the consistency of the
performances below, you may appreciate why De Villiers and Smith look
especially well-geared to prosper at CWC 2015 ...
De Villiers’ 2014/15 Test scores:
152 v West Indies, Centurion
10 v West Indies, Port Elizabeth
148 v West Indies, Cape Town
De Villiers’ 2014/15 ODI scores:
89* v NZ, Mount Maunganui
37 v NZ, Mount Maunganui
33* v NZ, Hamilton
80 v Australia, Perth
48 v Australia, Perth
52 v Australia, Canberra
91 v Australia, Melbourne
81 v West Indies, Durban
149 v West Indies, Johannesburg
19 v West Indies, Port Elizabeth
Smith’s 2014/15 Test scores:
22 & 55 v Pakistan, Dubai
0 & 97 v Pakistan, Abu Dhabi
162* & 52* v India, Adelaide
133 & 28 v India, Brisbane
192 & 14 v India, Melbourne
117 & 71 v India, Sydney
Smith’s 2014/15 ODI scores:
101 v Pakistan, Sharjah
12 v Pakistan, Dubai
77 v Pakistan, Abu Dhabi
10 v SA, Perth
73* v SA, Canberra
104 v SA, Melbourne
67 v SA, Sydney
37 v England, Sydney
47 v India, Melbourne
102* v England, Hobart
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