AB can get even better in T20s

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But never mind that. His exhilarating knock of 71 off 29 balls against England at the Wanderers was one of those “AB Specials”, although probably not as good as the incredible 145 off 44 balls against the West Indies in a one-day international at the same ground in January 2015, when he broke the world record for the fastest ODI hundred by reaching his ton off 31 balls.

De Villiers, though, still played a number of terrific shots, including an “overhead smash” for six off Chris Jordan in the third over, when a relatively good bouncer disappeared deep into the stands.

The Proteas Test and ODI skipper, who turned 32 last week Wednesday, February 17, said that he wasn’t his usual fluent self at the start of his innings.

“I didn’t start that well in the first few overs, I didn’t feel comfortable at the wicket even though I got a few boundaries here and there. I only really started feeling comfortable with Chris Jordan’s over (when he scored 22 with two fours, two sixes and a run two) - I started moving a bit better at the crease,” De Villiers said at the post-match press conference.

“I guess it’s one of those days when things did go my way. A couple of balls bounced in the right areas, and obviously a couple of good shots in between. So, I’m pretty happy about that. I desperately wanted a not out at the end. I was caught in two minds - I wanted to have a go at the leg-spinner, but I also wanted a not out. So, I guess that was my downfall at the end of the day.”

De Villiers did go after England leggie Adil Rashid, but lost the battle when he went for another big shot and got the thick outside-half of the bat instead, which carried all the way to Joe Root at long-off.

At the other end, Hashim Amla quietly went about his business, but exploded into action during another Jordan over, where he hit four boundaries in a row (there were two wides in between as well).

His square drive for six off Ben Stokes was also one of the best shots of the day, and De Villiers didn’t think Amla changed his approach because it was a T20 match. Some feel Amla could be forced to make way at the top of the order once Quinton de Kock returns from a minor knee niggle.

But he made a compelling case to be retained with a wonderful innings of 69 not out off 38 balls (8x4, 3x6), which could see one of David Miller and Rilee Rossouw missing out lower down.

“I had a decent start, and I didn’t know about it until I looked up and saw I was on 30 and he (Amla) was on three or four. And I think he also saw that, and decided ‘Okay, that’s not going to happen’! The thing about Hash and what makes him the class player that he is, is the fact that he never looked like he used any aggression out there,” De Villiers said.

“So, I’m not really 100 percent agreeing (that he changed his style). A couple of balls did go in the air, but he still had absolute class in every shot he played - it looked like he had time, like in Test cricket. I think that’s frustrating for bowlers, when you see a batter not really trying that hard, and still finding the boundaries. So, Hash batted a superb knock I think.”

With all the talk of his heavy workload at the start of the Test series against England, it was felt that De Villiers may sacrifice T20 internationals in future in order to get some rest during the year as he enters the final chapter of a fantastic career.

But the man himself says he is not done yet, and is keen to jack up his numbers in the shortest format. While it is difficult to boast big averages when there are only 20 overs to bat, the top players are around the 40 mark.

De Villiers comes in at 23.49 in 65 matches, with an aggregate of 966 runs in 62 innings and a highest score of 79 not out.

He was bizarrely utilised lower down the order for quite a while in the Proteas T20 set-up to shore up an inexperienced middle-order, according to coach Russell Domingo, which also affected his record.

But De Villiers opened in the T20 series against India last October as well and wants to make up for lost time ahead of the World T20 in India next month, with Australia first visiting South Africa for a three-match T20 series before that. The Proteas begin their World T20 campaign against England in Mumbai on March 18.

“I’ve had a few better T20 innings before (compared to the Wanderers on Sunday), but I’m a little bit short in T20 international runs - my record doesn’t look very good, I’m well aware of that,” he said.

“So, I really want to improve in that regard, and I think opening the batting has given me a great opportunity to do so over the next… however long that’s going to be. So, hopefully for a long time! I want to improve that record and today is definitely a step in the right direction.”

ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

@IndyCapeSport

Independent Media

Despite breaking the SA record for the fastest T20 international half-century, AB de Villiers is upset as he didn’t get what he “desperately wanted”.

Original source: AB can get even better in T20s

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