South Africa could never have chased down 414 without a hundred from Graeme Smith. After he was out for 108, they couldn’t have won without a hundred from AB de Villiers.
What’s really impressed us about this South African win is not that they chased down such a huge total on the final day, or that they did it against what is nominally the best side in the world. (Interesting appearance of the word ‘nominally’ there, eh?).
What’s most impressive is that they managed to fight back so comprehensively after Mitchell Johnson’s spell of five wickets for five runs earlier in the match. A team should be pretty damn dispirited after that happens to them. To overcome it betrays a genuine confidence that is quite, quite sickening. It also makes Ricky Ponting’s traditional pre-match words about South African mental scars seem a bit meaningless.
It’s being said everywhere, but if Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne had been playing, South Africa never would have made it. We’ll go one further and say that if they had been playing, South Africa wouldn’t have won, even if the wisened greats had bowled a load of toss. Sometimes you earn wickets through more than just your performance on the day and that’s a quality that’s extremely hard to replace.
AB de Villiers is in the process of building a reputation that he’s hard to bowl at. He also has another reputation, it seems. It might have been removed by now, but at the time of writing, his Wikipedia page featured the following sentence:
“De Villiers enjoys late nights while on tour with some of the local talent.”
There’s no preamble to that. It’s just one of a series of urelated ‘facts’ about his personal life, in between some quotes about Jesus and the name of his high school.