Cape Town - AB de Villiers announced his return to international cricket in the most emphatic, imperious and sublime manner possible with his 25th career ODI century and remarkably his first ever against Bangladesh in the second ODI at Boland Park on Wednesday.
As it happened: SA v Bangladesh, 2nd ODI
The fact that the Proteas won by 104 runs and clinched the series with a 2-0 series lead paled into significance against the backdrop of De Villiers brilliance.
It is almost vulgar to describe a De Villiers innings in terms of statistics because that is not what this great player is all about. He is a player who radiates class, flair, improvisation and a determination to challenge convention.
Yet this was one day when his statistics did tell a sort of story. When he came to the crease the Proteas had scored 90/2 in 18 overs for a scoring rate of exactly 5 runs to the over. Unbelievably, the Proteas top three batsmen had hit only 3 boundaries although this was in a large part due to the slowness of the outfield following 3 days of rain.
By the time he had finished he had made a career best 176 off 104 balls and made possible a total of 353/6 that was to prove way beyond the capabilities of Bangladesh and thus played the major role in clinching the series. It was the fourth best for South Africa behind the 188 of Gary Kirsten, the 185 of Faf du Plessis and the 178 of Quinton de Kock. Kirsten’s record was his for the taking going into the final 3 overs but then De Villiers it not the sort of player who would be worried about that.
The real statistic of his innings was the fact that he hit 15 fours and 7 sixes while the total contribution of all the other South African batsmen was 5 fours and 1 six. At one stage at the crescendo of his innings he hit 6 sixes and 2 fours in the space of 14 deliveries.
As always, his ability to hit boundaries where others were struggling were the result of his innate gifts of timing, silver quick footwork and the ability to pick length quicker than most mortals. His cover driving was peerless but the shot of the innings was his pull to midwicket off a delivery from the left-arm spin of Shakib Ul Hasan to a delivery that was not particularly short.
After the business as usual opening stand of 90 between De Kock and Hashim Amla, De Villiers was involved in stands of 136 with Amla – this was both a ground third wicket record and a third wicket record against Bangladesh – and a further 117 with JP Duminy. The latter contributed only 20 to the first 100 runs of that partnership.
And so one could go on. He has now scored ODI centuries against all his major opponents. Ireland remain on his still to do list as does Scotland and he has yet to play against Afghanistan.
The South African total was a ground record but fell 5 runs short of South Africa’s best against Bangladesh.
Rubel Hossain (4/62) was the most successful Bangladesh bowler although Shakib was undoubtedly the best (2/60). It was his double strike to remove De Kock and Du Plessis that must have given Bangladesh hope after they had won the toss but then they ran into the full might of De Villiers….
The visitors nevertheless gave it a good shot in going for the runs with both Imrul Kayes (68 off 77 balls, 6 fours and a six) and Mushfiqur Rahim (60 off 70 balls, 4 fours and a six) reaching half-centuries but what has been a problem throughout the tour – the inability to put together match-winning partnerships) – once again cost them.
They went into the last 20 overs needing 187 for victory and the game gradually drifted away from them.
Imran Tahir did his normal wicket-taking job in the middle overs (3/50 in 10) and the bowling performance was generally better than in Kimberley although they were not helped by some missed chances in the field.
Andile Phehlukwayo finished the match with career best figures of 4/40, his second four-wicket haul, improving on his previous best of 4/44 against Australia.
De Villiers was named Man of the Match.