He came, he saw and then he conquered. It sounds too simple a description for what AB de Villiers did at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday. Batting first, South Africa had lost Quinton de Kock early, when their scoring rate was just about 3. Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis exercised caution needed for innings building and when both of them departed in the 30th over, the score had only reached 146/3. The scoring rate barely touched 5 and by no means was that enough. In the current World Cup, 300 by winning teams have been the average scores. AB de Villiers entered the scene, when West Indies bowlers were celebrating the departure of two frontline South African batsmen in one single over by Chris Gayle. de Villiers didn’t begin by mindlessly banging straightaway because he also carried the responsibility of leading his team. He took his time, engaged Rilee Rossouw in mid-pitch chats and waited. At the end of 35 overs, South Africa were 186/3 and de Villiers had only scored 15 in ones and twos. That shows the temperament of a patient and thoughtful leader. de Villiers scored his first boundary in the 37th over, at the end of which, he was still on 24 scored off 20 balls. In contrast, Rossouw had raced away to 40 off 26 balls with five boundaries. Then the complexion of the game underwent an amazing transformation. AB de Villiers had begun to cut lose. From 24 off 20, he added 138 from the next 46 balls. Rossouw left him at 280 and next man Miller went away at 328. But AB de Villiers didn’t need company now. Like a one-man army, he caused unprecedented devastation of West Indies bowling and fielding with his explosive canon-like bat. As the last man standing, ABD carried his side’s final score to 408/5. As for himself, de Villiers remained unbeaten on 162 off just 66 balls belting 17 fours and 8 sixes. West Indies found the chase of 409 a herculean task and with their top order crumbling, they yielded the match to South Africa.
West Indies lost the toss and were asked to take the field by the South African captain. In the 6th over, South Africa lost Quinton de Kock. 18/1 in 6th over was a rather bad start for South Africa. On top of that, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis were hard-pressed in an innings building exercise. Their partnership of 127 in 23.4 overs was vital, though it could only improve the run-rate to nearly 5 an over. But that was the time, when the ball didn’t bounce so much and the two South African batsmen couldn’t take risks after their loss to India the other day. But when Chris Gayle removed both Amla and du Plessis in the same over, it was like West Indies had pushed South Africa in a corner. Rossouw was joined by de Villiers at 146/3 in 29.4 overs. From there, West Indies would have liked to restrict the Proteas to under 300 runs. It was the normal calm game of cricket until the 35th over with South Africa having reached 186/3. No one had any inkling of the impending storm. Out of a sudden, AB de Villiers got transformed to a plunderer, a villain for the entire West Indian team and their supporters. In just 66 balls, de Villiers blasted 162 runs and remained unbeaten in the end. Rossouw’s 39-ball 61, Amla’s 65 and du Plessis’ 62 paled into insignificance in comparison.
One cannot fault the West Indies from getting benumbed with the Villiers’ onslaught and it showed in the batting, when they began their climb up the high mountain. Gayle was one possible hope but he perished early, Samuels got a duck and though Smith, Ramdin and Holder chipped in with a few runs, the chase became too hot for them. The entire side succumbed under the weight of a huge target and West Indies lost the match by 257 runs.