Back in November 2012, AB de Villiers made 33 off 220 balls so that South Africa could save a Test against Australia. In March last year, against the same opposition, he made 43 off 228 balls, but this time South Africa lost.
Today it took him all of 31 balls to make a hundred. Only six didn’t go to the boundary. After that, he sped up.
If these extremes are impressive, consider what’s in-between. If you can block with the best of them and also slog with the best of them, your main challenge is deciding precisely how to defy the opposition.
We’re probably in mandatory handicapping territory here. AB de Villiers should be made to bat with the broken-off handle of a 1970s tennis racquet after downing three pints of Moonraker with a peeved ocelot strapped to his back. If we can persuade him to play like that for the next decade or so, either his Test or one-day average might just drop down into the forties. Not both though. That would be a bit optimistic.11 Appeals
Is it a sign of a good side that they can get away with working to a fairly predictable strategy? Innovation is often a way of making up for shortcomings.
South Africa’s approach to one-day cricket is what comes up by default in cricket strategy software. You’re meant to tweak it, twisting it to fit your strengths and weaknesses, but the Saffers haven’t bothered. Perhaps this is a sign that they have some rather good one-day players.
Opening partnerships are vital in 50-over cricket – just look at England for proof of that. South Africa have one all-time great in Hashim Amla balanced by Quinton of Kock, who is there to provide a bit of impetus at the outset. They provide a decent platform by any stretch, particularly when that platform is being built for AB de Villiers whose job it is to do whatever’s left.
Along with Virat Kohli, de Villiers is the best one-day bat in the world. He averages 50 and scores at a run a ball, as near as damn it. This year he averages 76. In 2012 he averaged 107. Last year was the first year since 2009 when he didn’t score at more than a run a ball.
Between the openers and de Villiers stands the waxed bulwark of Faf du Plessis. For the first three years of his one-day career, du Plessis failed to score a century and averaged in the twenties. Impressed by this, South Africa moved him to three and since then he’s made three hundreds and averaged 50.
Bowling-wise, South Africa have Dale Steyn. He is the reigning Lord Megachief of Gold, so we don’t feel we need to write about him. Of greater interest is Imran Tahir.
Yes, that’s right – Imran Tahir. The legspinner who concedes about four an over in Tests also concedes about four an over in one-dayers. And he takes a few wickets. We’re not sure anyone’s noticed, but he could be the trump card in what is already a hand full of jacks, queens and kings. You can assign those face cards to the players as you see fit.
King Cricket rating: The Departed
You feel like you’ve seen it before, but it’s done well and there’s a strong cast.19 Appeals
Aside from batting all day at one run an over to save Test matches, Faf du Plessis’s other thing is getting hit in the balls. You might say that he’s a specialist.
In the video below, he talks you through the countermeasures he has been forced to take. Here’s a link to the video as well because we’re 95 per cent certain that it won’t show up for email subscribers.
That is… stellar. Particularly when you consider that he made three off 58 balls in the first innings.
He wasn’t alone either. You can see the full deadbattery in scorecard format here. South Africa were playing for a draw to secure the series and succeeded in fine complete-absence-of-style. Rangana Herath opened the bowling and delivered 45 overs.
30 of them were maidens.18 Appeals
That was where everything went wrong. They hauled it back a bit by batting okay, but really the match was decided when Faf du Plessis scorned the coin’s generosity. Why would you ask Virat Kohli to chase? It’s like asking Mike Gatting to guard your cupcakes from scavengers.
This leaves us with an India v Sri Lanka final. As usual.16 Appeals
Minnows, upsets, India v Pakistan and the semi-finals already – this World T20 is getting the job done. And while some people claim that Twenty20 can be a lottery, you can make a strong case for the four remaining teams also being the four strongest.
Sri Lanka v West Indies
Darren Sammy is averaging a hundred in this tournament with a strike rate of 224. He’s managed to make an extraordinary impact in just 45 balls at the crease. Rangana Herath has played even less cricket but he too has made his mark. Bowling just 21 deliveries, he is currently averaging 0.60.
That sort of sums these teams up. Both seem like proper Twenty20 sides, chock full of weirdness and heavery. Neither gets too disheartened whether chasing a big total or defending a small one. We’ve no idea who’ll win, which is the way we like it.
India v South Africa
Insofar as any team can have reliable batting in Twenty20, India have reliable batting, but their bowling is more than doing a job in these conditions. Hardly anyone’s going for runs and in fact this is probably why the batting has appeared solid. They’ve been able to play within themselves.
For their part, South Africa have been uncharacteristically erratic. They’ve been generally underwhelming but with flashes of individual brilliance and appear to be working to Broad’s Law about only needing a maximum of two or three players to play well in this format. We’d bet on India, but unfortunately we don’t hold a position of responsibility within the BCCI and are therefore not permitted to lay wagers on cricket matches.12 Appeals
We’re not in favour of demonising individuals. But three runs, Jade. Three runs. That’s all that was in it.
Couldn’t someone have saved three runs somewhere along the way? Maybe Jos Buttler’s missed stumping proved costly. Would a specialist wicketkeeper have made the difference, or would that merely have meant a few more overs of AB de Villiers?
But it’s hard to look past England’s bowling as being the reason for defeat and specifically the death bowling. England like to go with fast-medium. We’re not sure that’s the right choice.
It’s hard to weigh the statistics being as bowling in the powerplay and at the end tends to mean going for more runs than those who bowl in the middle no matter how well you perform. At the same time, England’s most expensive bowlers in this tournament have been Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad and Jade Dernbach. In fact, over a 34-match Twenty20 international career, Dernbach has conceded on average 8.71 runs an over. That’s a big enough sample to draw conclusions, no?
Also, look at the most economical bowlers in the tournament so far: Mahmudullah, Narine, Shakib al Hasan, Ashwin, Mishra – these are all spinners. Santokie, Malinga and Steyn have been the only seamers to have much success and yet Tredwell, Moeen Ali and the medium-pace of Ravi Bopara haven’t bowled a right lot for England. It doesn’t feel like they’ve been playing the odds.
Would these bowlers have done better than the seamers at the death? They couldn’t have done much worse.23 Appeals
That’s not a chant. There are too many syllables. You’d have to rush through the ‘Test cricket’ bit to make it work and Test cricket ain’t for rushing through.
No, ‘more Test cricket for South Africa’ actually comes about because it looks like there is going to be more Test cricket for South Africa. They’re looking to extend series against Australia to four Tests and there also seem to be plans to do the same in series against India, which will be excellent right up until the point that the BCCI suddenly decide they want to do something different.
On that subject, the IPL’s going to start in the UAE next month. They decided that this week.16 Appeals
It was nearly a fitting send-off for Graeme Smith from a team hewn in his image (and ‘hewn’ is the only appropriate word to use). This South Africa side are dogged, resilient, they bat for ages and they’re prone to fourth innings performances that defy received wisdom.
Fortunately for Australia, they had a massive, massive lead and absolutely ages to take 10 wickets. They just about managed it thanks to two spanking deliveries from Ryan Harris (and you wouldn’t bet against it being his last Test either).
After the match, while both teams shook hands, Shane Warne went further and hugged everyone. A frighteningly elated Mark Nicholas then said ‘magnificent full balls’ to Ryan Harris and it sounded horrendous. Mitchell Johnson didn’t sound elated. He sounded drab and depressed, but he was probably just tired.20 Appeals
We wrote this title in the hope that we’d have some really funny thoughts to share once we started staring at the great expanse of whiteness where the body of the article’s supposed to go.
Nothing happened, so we checked Twitter and apparently Graeme Smith’s going to retire. Let this be a lesson to everyone that sometimes all you have to do is make a half-hearted effort to do something, allow yourself to become distracted, and then everything will just sort of work itself out.
In his retirement statement, Graeme Smith confessed to having left everything out on the field over the course of his career. ‘Everything’ by definition includes poo. We don’t know why he would have done that, but he’s admitted to it now.
There’s an outside chance this isn’t the most mature, insightful retirement article we’ve ever written.27 Appeals