Category: South Africa (page 1 of 25)

When and where is AB de Villiers at his best?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

AB de Villiers is very good. We’re pretty sure most of you will agree with that insightful assessment. But where do we  see him at his best?

We can think of five immediately obvious environments in which AB de Villiers might be seen.

  • In a music video
  • Just sort of milling around in public, at an airport say
  • In T20 cricket
  • In one-day cricket
  • In Test cricket

Let’s quickly run through each of these to try and work out where AB de Villiers is at his best.

Because if you want to see a thing renowned for its very-goodness, ideally you want to stand a reasonable chance of having the very qualities that define that very-goodness displayed to you, otherwise what’s the point?

In a music video

In a music video is a place in which AB de Villiers appears to be a below-average person. In a music video does not show AB de Villiers at his best. (More on this subject here.)

Just sort of milling around in public, at an airport say

AB de Villiers may well attract a certain amount of attention when he’s just sort of milling around in public, at an airport say, but we’d argue that this is merely residual attention resulting from his feats in other environments. AB de Villiers is no better at just sort of milling around in public, at an airport say, than anyone else. In fact he’s arguably worse, because he no doubt has a tendency to flee back indoors what with all the attention and whatnot.

In T20 cricket

AB de Villiers will often make slightly more runs than other people playing in the same T20 cricket  match and he will generally make those runs slightly more quickly. AB de Villiers looks very good in T20 cricket.

In one-day cricket

We would argue that AB de Villiers looks slightly better in one-day cricket than he does in T20 cricket. Given more time to make runs, the difference between himself and other batsmen playing in the same match will generally become more apparent.

In Test cricket

In Test cricket, with no real time constraints, batsmen can go about making their runs however they damn well choose. They needn’t feel rushed into playing shots they don’t necessarily feel comfortable with. They can play how they want.

Despite this, there are times when even mere survival is beyond most batsmen when AB de Villiers not only survives, but also scores runs, and not only scores runs, but does so at a rate utterly beyond most people even on a day when survival is not a seemingly unattainable goal.

We would therefore argue that ‘in Test cricket’ is the environment where AB de Villiers is at his best.

Breaking down David Warner and Nathan Lyon’s run-out of AB de Villiers – one of the most disrespectful dismissals in recent memory

AB de Villiers (all images via Sky Sports video)

Many things happened during Australia’s first Test win over South Africa. Some of them were cricket, some of them were David Warner falling out with people. The thing that interests us the most – AB de Villiers’ second innings run-out – fell somewhere in between.

Let’s break the moment down, because it’s really quite something. We’re struggling to think of a more disrespectful dismissal.

The context

The South Africans were near enough 200 runs behind on first innings and had then found themselves chasing 417 to win.

They quickly fell to 39-3 and so had basically lost. You wouldn’t think there was much left to get het-up about at this point, but then you’re not David Warner.

David Warner is, you suspect, the kind of man who snaps the remote in half in fury when the batteries start to get a bit low.

The run-out

Nathan Lyon dobbed one down the leg-side and South Africa opener Aiden Markram nurdled the ball towards David Warner.

As Warner scuttled round to get it, AB de Villiers set off down the pitch before doing a big U-turn when he looked up and saw only Markram’s back.

Sadly for de Villiers, he’d gone sufficiently far that the run-out was never in doubt. Warner was grinning even as he threw the ball.

At the bowler’s end, Lyon enveloped the ball with his Mekon hands and duly broke the stumps.

Nathan Lyon’s bit

What we didn’t mention was that AB de Villiers was on nought, having only faced one ball. Now here he was lying on his face, run-out in a match his team were about to lose.

Being run-out is always rubbish because to some extent it’s always self-inflicted. It’s worse still when you end up literally lying on your face in the dirt at the moment it happens.

Here’s AB de Villiers literally lying on his face in the dirt having been run out for a duck in a match his team is about to lose.

What happened next was that Nathan Lyon saw AB de Villiers literally lying on his face in the dirt having been run out for a duck in a match his team is about to lose and thought to himself: “This isn’t quite humiliating enough. I think I need to ramp this up a bit. I need to really emphasise the fact that AB de Villiers is literally lying on his face in the dirt having been run out for a duck in a match his team is about to lose.”

So Lyon ran past, looking down at him, and to emphasise that de Villiers was both literally and metaphorically fallen, he dropped the ball near him.

You’ll note that we italicised ‘nearly’ in that last sentence. As you can see, Lyon is looking directly at de Villiers even having passed him and is dropping/flinging the ball as he does so. You could maybe, if you so chose, argue that he dropped the ball at de Villiers.

David Warner’s bit

Lyon could not have executed his run-out and ball-drop without the assistance of David Warner. Warner too was hugely keen to emphasise the fact that his team was winning the Test match.

Presumably feeling that the surviving batsman had escaped lightly, he chose to convey his team’s supremacy to Aiden Markram.

Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine said at stumps that there “wasn’t too much aggression” during Warner’s send-off (which technically wasn’t actually a send-off because Markram wasn’t going anywhere).

Here is Warner’s Hatred Face midway through said send-off. We’re pretty sure we have never been this angry with anyone about anything in our entire life.

Now we want you to understand something at this point because it doesn’t really come across in stills. Warner is aiming this face AT Aiden Markram. Aiden Markram is the subject of the hatred.

All of Warner’s team-mates came and mobbed him for doing the run-out throw and yet he physically struggled with them to ensure he retained a direct line of sight to Markram.

A direct line of sight to Markram was important to Warner because he didn’t want there to be any miscommunciation about just how much he hated him

It doesn’t really need stating explicitly, but obviously as well as making the face, Warner was  saying things at Markram.

And yes, ‘at’ is the right word here. David Warner was most definitely not saying things to Aiden Markram; he was saying them at him.

South Africa v India is not boxing, it’s racing

With wickets falling every 10 or 20 runs in the South Africa v India series, it’s tempting to resort to the heavyweight boxer cliché. This has the two combatants going toe-to-toe, knocking lumps out of one another with neither taking a backward step.

It’s odd to think of wickets as ‘damage’ rather than the primary aim of the sport. Unlike limited overs, which is a ‘most runs wins’ game, Test cricket is essentially a race to 20 wickets. Wickets are the meaningful currency. Batsmen are necessary impediments and the game only moves forwards when they are dismissed.

In this series both teams have been moving at a ferocious pace, with India thus far not quite able to keep up. This isn’t for lack of trying however, and you wonder whether sooner or later the home team might be the one to crack.


Ajinkya Rahane must be shit-hot at making drinks

Ajinkya Rahane (detail of photo CC licensed by Mike Prince via Flickr)

We’ve always liked Ajinkya Rahane. He’s always struck us as a batsman who can adapt to different situations and different conditions. India like him too. They like him to be 12th man.

Rahane’s case for inclusion in the second Test against South Africa wasn’t undeniable, we’ll admit. He had a poor run of scores against Sri Lanka at the end of last year and got dropped. But surely he should be among the first names on the team sheet whenever India are away from home?

Last time he played a Test in South Africa, he made 51 not out and 96. Last time he played a Test against South Africa in India, he made 127 and 100 not out (in four innings in that match, only two other batsmen passed 50).

He averages 60 in Australia and 70 in South Africa. You could argue these are small samples, but we’d argue they are inexplicably small samples. He’s been left out of these two Tests when he could have played instead of – ohhh, let’s pick a name at random – Rohit Sharma, say.

Rohit Sharma averages 28 in Australia and nine in South Africa.


In six Tests and ten innings, Sharma has a top score of 25. The fact that he averages 85 in India seems dangerously irrelevant.

All we can conclude is that when Ajinkya Rahane brings out the drinks, they’re crisp and fresh and invigorating, and when Rohit Sharma brings out the drinks, it’s half a mug of lukewarm vegetable stock with a turd in it.

Is Hardik Pandya the best all-rounder in the world?

One of the problems with asking questions such as this is what time-frame do you use to make your assessment? Performances over the last year, over the last five years, over the last ten years?

We’re going make our assessment based on performances over the last 24 hours. This leads us to conclude that yes, Hardik Pandya is indeed the best all-rounder in the world.

Emerging with India 76-5 against South Africa, he made 93 off 95 balls. After that, he sauntered in and took 2-17.

Best all-rounder operating today. Without a doubt.

The more batsmen England pick, the fewer they have

The big question before this fourth Test was could England’s batsmen start making some runs and maybe win a few more Tests?

When the answer revealed itself to be “no and yes” it became apparent that these were actually two separate questions.

England somehow cobbled together a half-decent first innings score while simultaneously making their batting appear even less solid. The second innings was more of the same.

In Top Gun, Maverick’s “hit the brakes and he’ll fly right by” trick is a neat one, but probably not a ploy on which to base a career. We feel similarly about England’s current approach to building totals.

Old Trafford’s Anderson End

Few initially remarkable features, but you often get nice swing.

If Jimmy has an end, Cricket Badger readers will soon be aware that Vernon Philander has two – a top and a bottom.

This week’s Philander ailment is a light case of back knack. Violent full body convulsions can do that to a man.

Moeen Ali, England’s second spinner, takes a hat trick

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We’ve told you before how we once saw a story in the local paper where a woman had come second in some sort of vegetable growing competition despite being the only person to enter something in that particular category. The judges decided that her entry was only worthy of a silver medal, despite it having zero competition.

So it is with Moeen Ali. Speaking before the second Test, England coach Trevor Bayliss asserted that the man we like to call Bowling Ali was the team’s second spinner.

England promptly dropped their first spinner, but who’s to say that Moeen isn’t still second in a hierarchy of one?

People don’t call Moeen a part-timer quite as much they once did, but the all-rounder is still short of the respect he deserves.

Perhaps it’s a matter of perception and expectation.

As we’ve been saying for three years now, Moeen Ali is not a spinner to tie up an end – nor is that something he should particularly aspire to. Maybe if people accept this and realise that defensive bowling lies down a different road to attacking bowling, England’s best player might be acknowledged as precisely that.

Failing that, this hat trick should at least buy him a couple more matches.

Toby Roland-Jones: first look in Test cricket

Toby Roland-Jones (via Twitter)

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from players’ debuts – but we report on them anyway.

We suppose that if people call you Toblerone, you’re kind of duty-bound to provide the odd peak. 4-39 is pretty useful for a kick-off.

Toby Roland-Jones seems to bowl at around 80mph. On another day, people would be saying that’s not quick enough. But it works for Vernon Philander and it worked for Glenn McGrath. The trick is to keep playing well enough that no-one can find the time to dissect your shortcomings.

One thing you do have, when your pace tends towards medium, is less margin for error. Fortunately, on this evidence, Roland-Jones generally bowls within effective parameters. He hits that very small spot that is inevitably referred to as “good areas”.

Tougher challenges await. It won’t often swing and seam quite like this. At the same time, it seems likely that Roland-Jones will perform if it does. Shorn of debut nerves, he might even bowl better.

So he gets a green swinging conditions pass – and with flying colours. That’s all it was within his power to achieve after one day of bowling and it’s also not a bad qualification to attain if you’re looking to do half your Test bowling in England.

What Ben Stokes’ erratic boundary-hitting says about his batting

Kevin Pietersen’s career strike-rate was 61.72. Matthew Hayden’s was 60.10. For all that these are batsmen with a reputation for intimidating bowlers, they chose their moments.

This is a large part of the art of Test match batting. It’s about letting bowlers know that you are willing to hit them for four.

Once they’re aware of that, you don’t necessarily need to keep reminding them.

Viv Richards used to come out, blitz his way to 20 and then live off the latent threat for the rest of his innings. This is a smart way to go about things. Use your strengths to make life easier for yourself. The batsman who constantly needs to prove his aggression is an insecure batsman.

Ben Stokes’ innings progress in fits and starts these days. We’re taking this as a sign that he’s increasingly sure of himself.

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