In their last Group B match against the West Indies on February 27, AB de Villiers came as a late crusader and helped South Africa pile up 408/5 in 50 overs. There was no way that the West Indians could overhaul that and in an evitable result, they lost the 19th CWC2015 game at Sydney by 257 runs. Four days later on March 3, 2015, South Africa came up with another 400+ efforts against Ireland at Canberra without de Villiers. The sledgehammer artist did have a small part to play, in which he added 24 off 9 balls before walking off. His was the last wicket that fell in the South African innings. But just as in Sydney, all South African batsmen made meaningful contributions, what if Quinton de Kock fell early? Ireland couldn’t stand the heavy onslaught from Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis. The pair added 247 for the second wicket and both of them came with century marks. Later in the innings David Miller and Rilee Rossouw added 110 for an unfinished fifth wicket stand as South Africa reached 411/4 in 50 overs, a huge 8.24 runs per over target for Ireland. While the Irish found themselves ill-at-ease, any other more competitive team would have found the 412-run chase a herculean effort. It has been done once or twice in matches between regular ICC-member countries but Ireland were never expected to go after the monumental score. They began by losing wickets straightaway and by the 11th over, their score read a paltry 48/5. There was a semblance of recovery engineered by Andy Balbirnie, Kevin O’Brien, George Dockrell and Max Sorensen. But such effort was merely aimed at preventing too much damage to the Net-Run-Rate, rather than seriously challenging the South African total. In the end, Ireland lost the game by 201 runs.
AB de Villiers chose to bat after he won the toss. The match came to a temporary halt in third over, when John Mooney angled a ball across de Kock’s bat from the legside that could have taken the faintest of edges. But the umpire ruled not out and the entire Ireland team asked for review. They won it as de Kock walked back. When South Africa were 25/1 and Amla on 10, he was dropped by Ed Joyce at short midwicket off Kevin O’Brien. Lot of people argued that it could have been a game-changer. But such arguments are merely conjectures because the depth of South African batting goes all the way to the bottom. Moreover, Faf du Plessis was batting and de Villiers was waiting with David Miller and Rilee Rossouw in the dressing room. Amla and du Plessis played soundly and crafted a solid 247-run stand for the second wicket. Both Amla and du Plessis scored centuries. For Amla it was the 20th hundred in his 108th innings and he crossed Virat Kohli for the fastest to reach that landmark. Du Plessis’ three-figure knock came off 103 balls and it was his first since last September against Zimbabwe. With Amla and du Plessis doing the ground work, other batsmen only needed to enhance the scoring rate. After Amla got out, AB de Villiers came and played just 9-balls for his 24 run-cameo. But the South African captain was happy that Rilee Rossouw and David Miller brought up the rear with a forceful 51-ball 110 run partnership.
When Ireland came on to bat, they had a recent experience of chasing 300+ against the West Indies. But 400-plus was not their cup of coffee. All they could aim was to score enough runs in defeat that would keep them in contention for the quarterfinals, if the net-rate-rate ever became a decisive factor. That didn’t happen as wickets began to tumble from the third over onwards. By the 11th, half the side was back in the pavilion for just 48 runs. However, there was some solace for Scotland with Andy Balbirnie and Kevin O’Brien putting up resistance with an 81-run sixth wicket stand. But the match was headed to the inevitable victory for South Africa as spectators started leaving the stadium. South Africa didn’t have to work too hard and they were relaxed even if runs came from the bats of George Dockrell and Max Sorensen after Kevin O’Brien got out at 167. In between, AB de Villiers brought himself on for a couple of overs and took a wicket as well. The Ireland innings came to end at 210 after 45 overs and South Africa scored another massive victory.
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