CWC: De Villiers v Smith show?

2015-01-27 06:48
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)

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 both.

These outfits avoid each other in the pool stage, but may well lock horns in a knockout humdinger from the last eight onward.

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 major way.

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 of 94.

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 Virat Kohli.

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

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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