De Villiers runs legs off England

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18devilliersgetty_268585tSooner or later, a team batting second under the Newlands floodlights will prevail. On a sun-drenched afternoon yesterday, with Table Mountain overlooking the ground against a cloudless sky and on the most sedate of pitches, AB De Villiers went some way in attempting to make sure that it would be later.

He scored a blisteringly seamless hundred for South Africa in the third one-day international, and if it was assisted by an assortment of bowling that could not come to terms with the benign surface, that barely diminished it. De Villiers was relentless in his determination to keep the scoring rate above a run-a-ball.

De Villiers’ success in doing so was marked less by his 14 fours in an innings of 121 than by the statistic that he scored 37 singles and failed to score from only 20 of his 85 balls. It required peak fitness as well as an ability to find the gaps in the field.

South Africa’s total of 354 for 6 was the joint-highest in a one-day match at Newlands and went far beyond its reputation of favouring the side defending a total. After De Villiers had finished, abetted by a spurt in the closing overs, it meant that England would need to break the record winning score under lights anywhere.

The destiny of the match was not quite decided by the flip of a coin 30 minutes before it began but when Andrew Strauss called wrongly, allowing Graeme Smith to decide what to do for the seventh consecutive match on the ground, it did not exactly prompt many pundits to make a cast-iron case for the tourists’ prospects of taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

South Africa, with much to prove to both themselves and their supporters after their perfunctory performance at Centurion five days earlier, came out swinging from the hip. After five overs they had scored 63 and at various points thereafter a total of 400 looked feasible.

Smith and Hashim Amla gave the home side – and they must feel like Cape Town is their home from home considering their astonishing record of 24 wins in 27 matches – a corking start. Smith was at his most intimidating, driving down the ground and making room by moving both sides of the crease as the bowler ran in.

Amla was less brutal but no less effective and England, with the pitch offering no help, ran short of ideas quickly. They postponed the second power play and introduced Graeme Swann, returning to the side after his side strain, and his off spin at least quietened matters.

Smith’s dismissal, which had seemed improbable until he stepped away against Luke Wright and dragged a flailing drive on to his stumps, brought in De Villiers. He eased himself into the game immediately and never let up. He ran the legs off England without ever seeming to hurry.

In its composure and command there was something of Ricky Ponting about it. Amla went for his second half-century of the series and J-P Duminy followed to ensure that not all of South Afica’s middle order would stamp their initials on the match.

With De Villiers and Alviro Petersen together, however, South Africa rattled along once more and enjoyed the width that England’s bowlers gave them. They put on 95 in 62 balls and England’s finest, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, who was also coming back from injury, were picked off as easily as anybody else. De Villiers eventually lofted a drive to cover with four overs left. It was his fourth one-day century, his first for two years and the third quickest by a South Africa batsman.

Broad finished with four wickets which hardly constituted pegging back the South Africans, although it was the sixth time he had done so in a one-day innings.

As they had promised, England came out blazing away in their reply, and declared their intent by opening the batting with Wright. But they did not quite get going as they might have liked and the absence of a major innings at the top of the order told its own story.

Source: The Independent – November 28, 2009 / STEPHEN BRENKLEY

It’s as easy as AB, see

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England were given a public flogging here yesterday as their early-tour hope and momentum exploded in a glut of runs.

Andrew Strauss’ men conceded the monumental total of 354-6 as, in the shadow of Table Mountain, South Africa’s batsmen feasted themselves.

AB de Villiers led the way with a dazzling 121 from 85 balls of which he failed to score from just 20. There were half-centuries from Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Alviro Petersen.

In reply, not even another fine innings of 86 by Paul Collingwood could prevent England sliding to a crushing defeat by 112 runs in the third one-day international. The series is locked at 1-1 after a washout in the opening game.

Skipper Strauss admitted: “You’ve got to give credit to the way South Africa batted.

“We struggled to stop them scoring and 350 is always hard to chase. I thought we went at it well but we kept losing wickets at a vital time.

“We came across a good South Africa side today but we have another chance to put it right in two days.

“The key to chasing a score like that is at least one 100, but we kept losing wickets.”

South Africa’s huge score matched the highest at Newlands – and the other does not really count as it was against Kenya.

No team has ever chased as many as 355 in a day-night international, anywhere, ever. So it is fair to call it a stiff task.

England’s commanding performance in Centurion last Sunday when they won by seven wickets with four overs to spare injected the tour with a surge of confidence.

But this was a crushing reverse, a bit like the hammering in the second Twenty20 match when England were plundered for a mind-boggling 241.

England’s fortunes at the moment resemble a sort of out-of-control heart monitor, with huge peaks and troughs.

South Africa have an immense record on this ground – they have now won 25 of their 28 ODI’s here – and batting first is a bigger advantage than almost anywhere in the world.

After Smith and Amla put on 107 for the first wicket, de Villiers tore into England’s bowlers with a power and precision few in the world could have matched.

He had plenty of loose offerings on which to gorge as England’s bowlers frequently strayed on to leg stump or bowled too short.

James Anderson, the nominal leader of the attack, was below his best once more and seems to be struggling with his knee injury.

That is a big worry with two one-dayers remaining plus four Test matches.

Presumably former England coach Duncan Fletcher would have enjoyed the hammering meted out to his one-time charges because he now works for South Africa as a part-time batting consultant.

Listeners to Test Match Special on the radio would have known Fletcher’s thoughts because he was making his debut as a summariser.

In case you’re interested, he did not exchange a single word with his nemesis and fellow pundit, Geoffrey Boycott. In fact, he barely looked at him at all.

Fletcher still harbours deep bitterness more than two years after he was pushed from the England job.

Faced with such a daunting target, England promoted Luke Wright to pinch-hit at the start of their innings.

He bashed a couple of boundaries but wickets fell regularly and England soon slipped behind the clock.

Kevin Pietersen, who still does not look 100 per cent fit following his Achilles operation, made 45.

Collingwood continued his sublime form but could not find sufficient support.

The Durham all-rounder, who scored a century last Sunday in his record-breaking 171st one-day appearance for England, finally perished to a catch to mid-on having made 86 from 82 deliveries.

Source: The Sun – November 27, 2009 / JOHN ETHERIDGE

Dazzling de Villiers sinks England

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AB de Villiers hit a dazzling century as South Africa swept to a series-levelling 112-run win in the third one-day international against England at Newlands on Friday.

De Villiers, given the responsibility of filling the number three batting slot, hit 121 off only 85 balls as South Africa piled up 354 for six, a record total in matches between the two countries.

Paul Collingwood hit a defiant 86 for England but the tourists were bowled out for 242 in reply.

It was South Africa’s first win in eight matches against England, after six defeats and one no-result, and levelled the current series with two matches to play.

De Villiers played some audacious strokes, particularly in the batting power play as he closed in on his fourth one-day international century, at one stage flicking fast bowler Stuart Broad over the head of wicketkeeper Matt Prior for one of his 14 boundaries. There were only 20 balls in his innings from which he failed to score.

South Africa scored 110 runs in the last ten overs of their innings, including 57 in the five-over batting power play.

Home captain Smith was in dominant mood after winning the toss for the sixth successive time at Newlands, a ground where 20 of the previous 25 day-night matches had been won by the side batting first.

Smith muscled his way to 54 off 56 balls as he and Hashim Amla put on 107 for the first wicket. Amla played fluently to make 86 off 92 balls, adding 94 off 78 balls with de Villiers, who raced to his fifty off 39 deliveries.

England pegged back the scoring briefly, picking up the wicket of JP Duminy, before de Villiers and Alviro Petersen (51 not out) added 95 off 62 balls for the fourth wicket.

De Villiers said he benefitted from the start made by the openers and said he had “big shoes to fill” as a senior batsman in the absence of Jacques Kallis, who will miss the whole series because of a rib injury.

Smith said: “It was a terrific innings to watch. AB has been given a lot of responsibility.”

Seeking the second-highest successful run chase in one-day international history, England promoted Luke Wright as a pinch hitter to open with skipper Andrew Strauss. Wright hit 24 off 19 balls before holing out to deep midwicket.

Strauss admitted: “South Africa batted superbly and AB de Villiers played a brilliant, top-quality innings. We struggled to stop them scoring. Three hundred and fifty was always going to be a hard score to chase.”

England’s hopes plummeted when Strauss and Jonathan Trott were out in the space of four balls with the total on 58, with Trott falling to a sensational leaping catch by Smith at slip.

Collingwood shared stands of 84 with Kevin Pietersen (45) and 64 with Matt Prior (16) before he was caught at mid-on after making 86 off 82 balls. He hit seven fours and three sixes.

Recalled fast bowlers Wayne Parnell and Morne Morkel were South Africa’s most successful bowlers. Parnell took five for 48 and Morkel three for 39. Smith said the challenge for South Africa was to build on Friday’s performance in the remaining two matches after what he described as a “stop-start” early season.

The only setback for South Africa was what was described as a minor hamstring injury suffered by fast bowler Dale Steyn, who had to leave the field after bowling six overs.

Source: AFP – November 28, 2009 / COLIN BRYDEN

Destructive de Villiers crushes England

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Fortress Newlands brought the best out of South Africa again as they levelled the one-day series with a crushing 112-run victory on the back of a blistering 85-ball 121 by AB de Villiers. There had been some strong words in the home camp after the defeat at Centurion and a refocused group of players emerged to produce a powerful all-round display, capped off with the fit-again Wayne Parnell claiming a career-best 5 for 48.

It would be easy to look at Graeme Smith winning the toss and surmise that it made a huge difference given the ground’s history. There is no doubt it helped – batting under pristine blue skies was a head start – but it would be a huge disservice to South Africa’s top order, and especially de Villiers, to suggest it was the deciding factor. This wasn’t one of those nights where the ball zipped around under the lights, instead England were beaten by sheer weight of runs from a batting display that wasn’t far off the perfect gameplan.

England didn’t roll over in a daunting run chase but after losing their top three for 58 and Kevin Pietersen at the half-way mark the task was always too much. Paul Collingwood continued his recent rich vein of form with a combative 86 including three sixes – taking his tally since the start of the Champions Trophy to 393 runs in six innings – but it was only an effort in narrowing the margin of defeat. South Africa’s attack was far sharper with the return of Parnell and Morne Morkel who shared eight wickets in a throw-ahead of what the Test series could entail.

From early in the innings it appeared a given that South Africa would make hay, but not quite to the extent of 354 – comfortably a record score against England and equalling their best for this venue. Smith and Hashim Amla opened with a stand of 107 in 18 overs which paved the way for de Villiers to produce one of his finest one-day innings.

In a wonderful display of clean and controlled striking de Villiers went a long way towards correcting his poor one-day record against England which stood as an anomaly in his career where his previous best was 42. At no stage did de Villiers take his foot off the gas, but the innings really exploded into life when South Africa took their batting Powerplay in the 43rd over.

De Villiers greeted Stuart Broad with an audacious ramp-turned-scoop over the keeper’s head then swept him fiercely through midwicket in an over that cost 15. His hundred – the fourth of his career – came in the next over off 75 balls with another boundary pummelled through midwicket. When he finally skied to cover, a number of England players acknowledged the innings as he left the field. Along the way de Villiers shared stands of 98 with Amla and 95 in 10 overs with Alviro Petersen, but on both occasions his partners became almost forgotten bystanders.

Amla and Smith were allowed to kick-start the innings against some wayward new-ball bowling. Smith went to a run-a-ball fifty then dragged Luke Wright into his stumps, but Amla settled into the anchor role. Amla wouldn’t have been playing in this series if Jacques Kallis hadn’t been ruled out with a fractured rib but, as he always does, he continued to make the most of his opportunity. De Villiers backed up the opening stand with a positive start as he took advantage of the delayed bowling Powerplay with a flick over midwicket and two rasping cut shots. The warning signs were flashing.

De Villiers rushed his fifty from 39 balls as he made good ground on catching his partner. Amla had a century for the taking when he bottom-edged a pull to Matt Prior and momentarily England held the run-rate in check as Wright had JP Duminy taken at deep square-leg. However, South Africa were just biding their time.

De Villiers and Petersen consolidated for a few overs until the mayhem started. The fourth-wicket stand was worth 95 with 57 of those coming from the batting Powerplay as de Villiers cut loose against Broad and Anderson. Mark Boucher ensured the innings ended with a flourish as the final 10 overs brought 109 runs. Extraordinarily, given the total, Boucher launched the first six of the innings in the 48th over with a straight drive off Wright. Petersen reached an almost-ignored fifty from 39 balls – matching de Villiers’ rate – during the final over as South Africa moved past 350.

Faced with an asking rate of seven England shuffled their batting order and the promoted Wright chanced his arm for 24 off 19 balls before picking out deep square-leg. Andrew Strauss batted with intent and no little flourish, but not for nearly long enough when he edged a wide ball from Morkel. In the next over Jonathan Trott was brilliantly held at first slip by Smith who was having one of those days that captains savour.

Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen, the latter still searching for form, had to try and rebuild in the face of an ever-rising asking rate and just when a partnership was settling Pietersen failed to cover his leg stump when he swept at Duminy. Despite Collingwood’s strong biffing, which included consecutive sixes off Ryan McLaren, sustaining the required rate was mission impossible.

On both occasions that South Africa have been surprised by England on this tour – the opening Twenty20 and at Centurion – they have bounced back in grand style. They will be eager for the next meeting in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, while England face another test of their confidence.

Source: CricInfo – November 27, 2009 / ANDREW McGLASHAN

Better dead than red

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Never mind the serious business of preparing for the cricket bust-ups with England, there’s a more competitive edge to the South African side – sorry, we just can’t get used to calling them that flowery name – when it comes to football. Mickey Arthur admitted as much: “Football talk – that really gets the competitive juices going in our side.” As if to prove this, AB de Villiers had to undergo a lengthy treatment session during the side’s warm-up kick-about before the first ODI after being spiked on the right ankle by Dale Steyn. Sticking to the same ruthless attitude that has seen him take over 150 Test wickets and smash many a batsman on the head, Steyn had little sympathy for his Titans teammate. “Of course I did it deliberately, he’s a Manchester United fan,” said Steyn, who supports Chelsea. Sounds fair enough to us.

Source: IOL.co.za – November 22, 2009