AB de Villiers: Return of the Maestro
AB De Villiers made his long-awaited return to Test Cricket in a low-key encounter against the Zimbabweans in the inaugural 4-day Boxing Day Test match. He ended up taking both captaining and wicket-keeping duties, due to injuries to both Faf Du Plessis and Quinton De Kock respectively, responsibilities he had initially given up to extend his career. He made a fluent fifty before giving it away, but the real test of whether his hunger for the Test game remained was the next series, against the rampant Indians, who were looking to correct their ignominious away record. He passed the test comfortably, playing key innings in the first 2 Tests, helping Proteas maintain their home record against the Indians. Despite suffering a rare failure in the last Test, it was on a minefield of a pitch on which everyone struggled to play with control, and he still ended up as the second highest run scorer of the series comfortably, after Indian Captain Virat Kohli.
Following which, arrived the mighty Australians, at the top of their game having crushed the English at home and not lost a series on South African shores since readmission in ’92. It was to be the toughest test for anyone, not just AB de Villiers, but the way he stood up to the test just cleared the few remaining doubts of anyone. Ab de Villiers backed up his comments made a few weeks ago of how he was at the top of his game with some domineering performances, single-handedly on a couple of sessions, facing off to head to head against the much vaunted Aussie attack. He scored a stunning 71* out of 162 in the first Test in a losing cause, followed by a match-winning 126* in the second, and yet another match-winning twin 60s in the third. He utterly dominated the Australian bowlers, leaving them scratching their heads as to how to dismiss him.
The best compliment AB received for his performances was not the outpouring praise from legends and fans all over the world or his opponents’ admiration for him. It happened during the fag end of his century when AB was farming the tail while trying to further extend the South African lead. The Australian pacers, who had landed on the shores of the Proteas being hailed as the best attack in the world and predicted to dominate the cricketing scene for years given their young age, started bowling way down leg side, almost at the leg side tramline, with almost all 9 fielders on the boundary line. It was a massive statement, with the Australian think tank having effectively given up and stating that they were simply unable to come up with a way to dismiss him. Even this, however, didn’t lead to relenting of de Villiers’ output, as he miraculously still found a way to score runs without undue risks. It must surely rank among one of his best innings, the way he batted making the Australian bowlers look as if they were simply a bunch of net bowlers giving him net practice. No matter where they bowled, how they bowled, what they bowled, De Villiers found a way through and didn't experience any discomfort at all. This led to the Aussies resorting to ball tampering to gain some reverse swing since they could not trouble him at all. He was completely at ease the whole time, and in the rich vein of form, he is right now, if not for his age and fitness levels, there would be no doubt that he would reach 10000 runs. The cricketing world would be poorer when he decides to hang up his boots, and everyone should make sure to not miss out on his batting while he’s still here.