AB de Villiers plays decisive innings to win first T20 for England

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Photo by Sarah Ansell

A real man of the match performance from AB de Villiers won England the first T20 international against South Africa. The greatest sportsman who ever lived ate up 58 balls in making an unbeaten 65.

If the innings hinted at a two-paced pitch, England’s batsmen only noticed one of them and weren’t unduly troubled by the other.

For all the adulation, it’s worth remembering that de Villiers isn’t actually all that good at T20, one of the two formats he still deigns to play. Nor has he done a right lot else in recent times.

De Villiers’ last Test hundred (do we mean ‘most recent’ or ‘final’) came in January 2015. His most recent one-day international hundred came in January 2016.

This isn’t to talk him down. He’s been an extraordinary batsman, but we’re starting to wonder whether he ever will be again. He’s supposedly fully focused on the 2019 World Cup, but in the Champions Trophy he looked like a man short of cricket. You wonder whether he might want to broaden out his tunnel vision a tad.

In this match he looked like a man playing with a hollow bat.

Jason Roy isn’t in great form either. His body is – as one stout over of straight-batted thonking proved – but his brain is not.

Refusing to stick to the methodology that had started to reap rich dividends, Roy for some reason backed himself to play someone else’s natural game and unfurled a suicidal reverse sweep.

Clearly Roy feels he has something to prove. That proof will probably only come once he feels differently.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. Clearly someone introduced him to Moonraker.

    It’s always sad watching the decline of a great player. Unless Tests is the first format they choose to give up, then I chuckle to myself.

  2. AB had one shot (the slog sweep over backward square off Chris Jordan) that made me think it was still January of 2015, and fifty-seven other shots that left me with much less doubt as to whether the earth could forestall its diurnal course.

    Also I just noticed the clip in the linked post.

  3. AB probably realized the meaningless of the fixture and decided to try and play himself back into form.

  4. I feel asleep during AB’s soporifathon and didn’t really wake up again until the post match punditry was in full sway.

  5. He’s a disgrace to two-initials-the-first-of-which-is-A folk everywhere.

    (As am I, no doubt)

    1. There is an inordinate number of them, when you start to think about it. AA Milne, AP McCoy, AE Housman, AA Gill, AT Great…

      None of these people actually have names, with the possible exception of Tony. Why? What is it about having a first initial A that makes you want to forget the other letters that your parents gave you and concentrate only on the first one?

  6. 28 off 14 balls for Roy strikes me, in pure practical result terms, as a good T20 innings. But I am not sure my internal calibration has quite god used to T20 yet.

    It goes something like this: 28 is not much different to 30 (to the extent it should be considered more critically than 30, it should only be so to the extent that 32 would be assessed as better than 30, i.e. not much).

    30ish in the compressed space of a T20 is really the same as 50ish in a longer form of the game, i.e. a decent volume of runs to be scoring. You probably won’t win the match with a whole bunch of scores like this unless someone goes a bit bigger, but they need to be supported by guys this kind of score. So it’s okay, in fact reasonably decent. A batsman who gets out cheaply sometimes and scores this kind of score sometimes is doing about par, so long as they occasionally go wild and get a big one.

    Two runs a ball is a good T20 clip; it’s 12 runs an over so gets you a total of 240, which would win far more matches than it loses. If people are going to score not-huge, “supporting role” scores before getting out, it’s best they do so at a good rate. In fact it would be hard to score this kind of score at any faster rate. So to my mind this upgrades Roy from having had a “decent” day to a “good” one.

    Then at this stage another part of my brain kicks in saying how can someone who has scored less than 30 runs be having a “good” day with the bat? But I think that is the part of my brain that doesn’t quite grok T20 yet.

      1. That was a great thread – though RIP John Noakes.

        I think you’re right that it’s easier to have a “good” day in T20, though nagging part of me wonders if that means “good” needs to be redefined so that its difficulty is equalised across formats. I will resist this temptation on the grounds that it is clearly easier to create a “good” piece of wall-art by doing painting-by-numbers than it is to perform a “good” piece of brain surgery and nobody argues that the difficulty level of “good” should be recalibrated between those two great endeavours.

        I quite like the drop-worthy scale myself. Would you drop someone for scoring 28 off 14 in a T20? Nope, a batsman doing that is basically doing the job he is paid for, in a sufficiently satisfactory manner not to be dropped for it. If they were consistently scoring that kind of score, we’d be okay with it. On the other hand, for someone on the brink of being dropped – particularly if other batsmen were returning from injury – would a score of 28 off 14 be a career-saver that renders you undroppable? Nope, not really. So it falls between “we’ll drop you if you keep doing it” and “we’d have dropped you if you hadn’t accomplished it”. Like the vast majority of scores, in fact, so this scale doesn’t have a lot of discernment value.

      2. Incidentally this is also my approach to work. A perfectly satisfactory day at work involves not doing anything so bad that I’m worried for the next few weeks I’ll be fired soon as the boss finds out, but not done anything so great I can point at it and ask for a promotion.

    1. The thing I’m taking from this above all else is the word ‘grok’ – thanks for that.

      A distant second is this – flip your argument round and ask if you had a guy waiting to come in who could give you 28 off 14 most times he played, you’d be crazy to leave that guy out, no?

    2. I can’t quite grok T20 either, Bailout and have struggled to see how the format can assess a batsman’s form (in punditry). As regards ‘grok’ after reading Stranger in A Strange Land in the eighties I’ve harboured a wish to have three foxy secretaries like Jubal Harshaw.

  7. Just out of curiosity, did you just send me an email? If so, thanks, great, that’s ace and stuff. If not, you have a virus. And I’m not talking about one of those viruses that clears up with tablets but which puts you off mushroom vol-au-vents for life.

      1. Now I’m the one getting all emotional. That’s ace, I am so pleased that you liked it.

      2. I didn’t get an email. Didn’t you like whatever it was I didn’t send you?

  8. Ireland. Afghanistan. In no particular order. Test status. Wooowoowwwwwwweeeeeexiiiting!
    I sense an imminent article on this so won’t waste further comment here…

    1. Huzzah! YOU get Test cricket, YOU get get Test cricket, EVERYONE* GETS TEST CRICKET!

      *except Scotland, Hong Kong, Germany, etc…

      The elevation is well overdue for Ireland, but it’s hard not to be especially excited about Afghanistan, given their amazing rise through the ranks over the last 10 years or so in what can only be described as ‘extremely challenging’ circumstances.

      1. Indeed! No home test matches either, one would presume – they’re the new Pakistan. And what we need right now is definitely another Pakistan. Afghanistan actually have two bowlers in the ODI top ten world rankings, for what they’re worth. No shit.

      2. Blowers news has taken the edge off this now, but I’m still excited. Here’s an exclamation mark to prove it!

      3. Think we may be in a minority among subjects of the Kingdom, as others may prefer their commentary to be correct than colourful, but I will miss Blowers terribly. Still haven’t got used to the sad absence of CMJ but Blowers really adds a different texture and I hope somebody (Tuffers perhaps?) picks up a few of his threads.

        Shame Ireland weren’t awarded Test status five years ago when they were a bit stronger but the time seems right for Afghanistan. Both sides really ought to be granted a Test debut at Lord’s but I fear that’s unlikely.

      4. Indeed, quite a fan of Blowers here also. Sad he won’t ‘grace’ the airwaves anymore – the homogenization of radio cricket commentary to recently-retired ex-test players continues apace; should soon be just like Sky Sports’ anodyne coverage, IS just like Sky Sports anodyne coverage.

      5. We’ve said it here before, but the key thing that all commentators need to do is understand who they are talking to. In the main they are talking to fans, and therefore they should talk like fans, knowledgeable fans, fans with insights, but nonetheless fans.

        This doesn’t preclude ex-players from being commentators, but they need to stop talking as if they are still players. Technical details are all well and good if they enhance the discussion, but too many of the current breed of commentator think that’s all there is. In the coaching rooms, every good shot is a bad delivery, every wicket is a poor choice by the batsman, but as a fan I prefer to think of wickets being solely due to bowling brilliance and every boundary the result of sublime, superhuman batting. Commentary these days feels less like seeing the beauty of the painting and more like discussing the selection of the paint.

        Blofeld was firmly in my camp, as were Brian Johnston, CMJ, John Arlott, Richie Benaud, and Murray Walker, David Coleman, Ted Lowe, David Vine and a great many others. All these people had vast technical knowledge of their sports, but importantly they knew how and when to use it, and how and when to be just like the rest of us – awestruck observers, but with an ability to put that awe into appropriate words.

      6. Beautifully put Bert. I thought there was a moment of that from Aggers the other day: ‘Oh AB de Villiers, stop it!’ as he played one of his (all too few) ridiculous shots. That aside, the brush strokes are mostly pointillism these days.

      7. That’s worth a copy-paste into today’s post, Bert, if you’ve got the dexterity to accomplish such a feat. You can say that we encouraged you if you’re worried about how you’ll look.

      8. Funny to talk about the homogenization of cricket radio when it now has more ethnic and gender diversity than ever (about time too) but if you were to feed the verbal output through a computer I suspect it would conclude that variety has reduced, that technical words now form a greater proportion of the discussion, and so on.

        Bert put it really rather well but I’ll go further than that – one of the greatest strengths of TMS was that at its best it is a multithreaded conversation, like your favourite pub, where you can tune in or out of the various strands as takes your fancy (or as far as your technical abilities allow you to follow).

        As such it does not just cater for “the fan”. It caters for every conceivable variety of fan in a way the vast majority of sports radio programming does not – the statto, the 20-year club stalwart, the old-timer who remembers the Invincibles, the historical nut with his county’s 1920s team photos adorning his stairwell, the newbie, the guy who, in his own head, could be opening for England today if only the county had offered him a contract, to someone who doesn’t really know all the rules but is listening avidly for a wicket because he hopes England are going to bowl the Aussies out and win the match.

        What Blowers seemed to especially recognise is that a lot of TMS listeners are not even “fans” as such – like the bloke trapped in a ten-mile motorway snarl-up or the housewife with a three hour stint in the kitchen ahead of her, they just want to be somewhere else. And Blowers could conjure you there – somewhere hot or exotic or pigeon-filled, a thousand miles removed from your current concerns, for an entertaining day out at the cricket. But it is simply not possible to listen to TMS for years without developing something of a feel for the rules and rhythm and history and culture of the game – so by osmosis or otherwise, TMS had a way of converting non-fans into fans, in a way I’m not sure any other sports radio broadcast has ever managed.

        All together now, and with apologies to Doddy,

        T-M-S, T-M-S,
        The greatest gift that I possess!
        I’ve rarely batted, and barely bowled,
        But I’ve got TMS on my radio

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