AB seeks 5 000-run landmark

Category : News

A modest 15 runs against Sri Lanka in the second Test at Kingsmead from Boxing Day will see AB de Villiers reach the personal landmark of 5 000 runs in the format.

Achievement of that objective in Durban will also see him earn a place on the “podium” as third-fastest South African batsman to reach that figure.

De Villiers currently boasts 4 985 Test runs (average 47.93) from 69 appearances and 117 knocks.

Ahead of him among fellow-South Africans for stealth to 5 000 runs are only Herschelle Gibbs, now out of the Test picture and a “super freelancer” in Twenty20 cricket, and his captain Graeme Smith.

Gibbs got to the milestone from 108 innings and in his 63rd Test, placing him 22nd on the overall list, with Smith not far behind in 25th overall, having got there in 111 knocks and also in 63 Tests.

Top of the pile, almost needless to say, is the incomparable Australian Don Bradman – he needed only 56 innings and 36 Tests to achieve the 5000-mark against old enemies England at Headingley in 1938.

The fastest South African-born player to the landmark is Kevin Pietersen, 19th overall, although his 5 000 obviously came in England colours: 107 innings and 60 Tests.

Jacques Kallis is presently third best South African (120 innings and 73 Tests) but almost certain to be overtaken by De Villiers who has three innings in hand on his team-mate to knock off the required 15 runs and get to 5 000.

The Titans stroke-player is in decent form, too, with his last three Test innings being 99 against the Lankans at Centurion, and 64 and 73 against Australia at the Wanderers.

Source: Sport24 – December 23, 2011 / ROB HOUWING

AB develops ‘nineties’ trend

Category : News

AB de Villiers has become the sixth South African and 87th instance overall of a batsman being dismissed for the unfortunate 99 in a Test innings.

Friday’s occurrence on day two of the Proteas’ first Test against Sri Lanka at Centurion was the first time in his 117 knocks at this level that the 27-year-old stroke-player has fallen on that score.

But it is still 99 times better than registering nought, as the sages say — and he was the pivotal batsman in ensuring that South Africa ended play (before a very welcome, sun-soaked audience of some 10 000) thoroughly in control on a pitch that remained challenging.

The Proteas held a first-innings lead of 209 with sprightly last-wicket pair Mark Boucher and Imran Tahir yet to be dislodged … and the former no doubt very desirous of the opportunity to add, at the very least, the one further run he required to get to a timely half-century and typically keep his critics at bay once more.

For someone who already boasts 12 centuries, and two of those doubles, it is unlikely that the eternally crowd-pleasing De Villiers will have lost too much sleep about his dismissal a fraction short of three figures, although it would have been nice to add a first personal ton against the Lankans to his burgeoning list – he has only played three Tests against these foes but nevertheless averages 63.20 against them right now.

Still, he has been dismissed in the 90s six times in Tests, with three of these instances being at his home ground of SuperSport Park.

The first time was in only his fifth Test match, against England in 2004/05, when he was snared for 92 in South Africa’s first innings, but then more than made up for the disappointment in the second dig, smashing 109 for his maiden century and truly signalling his arrival as an international factor against a strong visiting pace attack.

And the last occasion at Centurion was against New Zealand, when he was out for 97, in April 2006.

He has one prior experience of just failing to reach a century against the Lankans: the decisive second and final Test at Colombo in August of that same year when he notched a 95.

It was a classic Test match with the Proteas, 1-0 down and going all out to square the series, able to set Sri Lanka a demanding fourth-innings target of 352 but the hosts sneaking over the line with one wicket to spare to earn a 2-0 sweep.

Had De Villiers got to his ton on Friday, and then advanced to 114, he would have also reached the landmark of 5000 personal Test runs, although that milestone clearly is just around the corner and still achievable in this match if South Africa are, in fact, required to bat again – there’s got to be a fair chance they won’t?

Instead the attacking right-hander, who batted with commendable tightness and common sense a lot of the time on Friday, became the 87th batsman in Test history to be sent packing on 99 and the sixth South African.

His compatriots on the list are — from most recent — Neil McKenzie, Jacques Kallis, Trevor Goddard, Bruce Mitchell and Aubrey Faulkner.
When McKenzie was the last South African sufferer of this fate, in March 2002 at Newlands, the famously superstitious player was trying to complete a risky run to earn his first Test ton against then-mighty Australia, but Damien Martyn’s direct hit cruelly foiled his quest.

De Villiers may well not be too fidgety about these trifling things …

Source: Sport24 – December 17, 2011 / ROB HOUWING

AB de Villiers, out on 99, happy to trust fielder

Category : News

South African batsman AB de Villiers said he had no regrets about taking a Sri Lankan fielder’s word about a catch that ended an innings of 99 on the second day of the first Test at SuperSport Park on Friday.

“I believe in asking the fielder,” said De Villiers about a tumbling catch at backward point by substitute fielder Dimuth Karunaratne off the bowling of Thisara Perera.

The ball was taken low to the ground and television replays were not conclusive as to whether the ball had carried.

De Villiers hesitated and the umpires appeared to be about to consult but the batsman walked off after speaking to Karunaratne.

“My initial reaction was that I was hoping the umpires would go upstairs to review it,” said De Villiers.

“But Jacques Kallis always asks the fielder. (Umpire) Rod (Tucker) asked me if I wanted to go upstairs and I said, ‘no, let’s ask the fielder’. I asked him, he said he caught it and I walked off. That was the end of it.”

De Villiers said he had not seen a replay of the incident.

“It’s past tense now, it’s history. I still back the fielder. If he said he caught it, then that’s it.”

Rather than dwelling on whether it was a clean catch, De Villiers said he had only himself to blame for getting out.

“It was a poor shot. I should have put it in the gap. The ball was there to be put away. It’s my own fault.”

Sri Lankan batting coach Marvan Atapattu described De Villiers’ action as “a nice gesture” but said he personally wouldn’t have done the same.

“I’m not quite sure. I asked the fielder about it and he said he was pretty sure in calling it a clean catch but I myself, looking from the side, wasn’t really sure.”

Source: Times of India – December 16, 2011

Smith, AB help Sri Lankans get paid

Category : News

Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan thanked Proteas skipper Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers for assisting in their battle to receive their salaries.

Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan thanked the Proteas’ players for their support in their battle to ensure the visiting team will be paid before next week’s first Test against South Africa after going nine months without their salaries.

Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers made statements to the International Cricket Council (ICC) to assist the Sri Lankans who have not been paid since March.

“Thanks to AB and Graeme who both gave statements,” said Dilshan after his team’s first practice session at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Wednesday.

“I thank them for being behind us to sort out these matters.

“They (Sri Lanka’s cricket board) will sort it out next week, that’s the news I heard from the board.”

Dilshan said despite not being paid for most of the year, it would not affect their performances on the field.

“We are here to play cricket, everyone wants to play cricket and not worry about payment,” he said.

“We know payments are important but we’re just trying to play good cricket and finish this tour – that’s the main target as a team.”

Sri Lanka have lost all three of their last Test series by a 1-0 margin and have the unenviable record of only winning one Test out of their previous 18.

Dilshan believed the results were not a true reflection of their performances.

“In the last Test we played really good cricket and, at one stage…we tried to win but unfortunately it rained.

“If we can use this three-day training game properly, it will help us before the Test match.”

The visiting side were used to the slower, turning wickets in the subcontinent and would need to adjust quickly to the fast bouncing conditions in South Africa.

“We need to get ready as soon as possible to these conditions,” said Dilshan.

“We haven’t played Test cricket here but we’ve played one-day games in South Africa so that helps a little bit.”

The Sri Lankan skipper said his team would rely on the experience of seasoned campaigners Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

“We have experience in our batting unit, with Mahela and Sangakkara having played a lot of cricket especially in IPL and Champions League, and we really want to get used to these conditions quickly.”

Dilshan is looking at the series in a positive light as Sri Lanka have not been to South Africa in nine years and will not carry any baggage into the series.

“We are carrying a few young guys and we will try to give them experience,” he said.

“It’s not easy to come to South Africa as they have been playing good cricket for a few years and we can’t make any mistakes.

“We have to play with 100 percent commitment in this series and everyone should put their hand up and take the responsibility.”

The three-day match against a South African Invitation XI in Benoni starts on Friday.

Source: IOL – December 7, 2011

Summer snooze for Proteas

Category : News

Is it just me or does it seem as though the first half of the 2011/12 season is being marked by some unusually easy living for the national Test cricket team?

Of course it is not far up the drag on the calendar anyway, but some of the Proteas squad must think it’s Christmas, so limited have been the demands on them in terms of honest “middle” time for either country or franchise.

Put it this way: the campaign has been highly unusual thus far for the manner in which it has precluded batsmen from the possibility of quite literally occupying the crease all day or bowlers from running in for 24-overs-a-day stints beneath an unforgiving sun.

Those are tried and trusted ways, let’s face it, of getting cricketers into an acceptable groove, yet the season has been very stop-start – with a stronger emphasis, I would argue, on the “stop” part – and unevenly weighted in favour of limited-overs fare when there has mercifully been some activity.

Keep in mind that even the insanely short Australian Test series didn’t produce as much cricket as might have been anticipated – the Newlands one lasted three days, including an 18-over completed Aussie second innings, although that is obviously no crime on the part of the host nation.

Not too surprisingly, many of the Proteas players have clearly cashed in gleefully on the amount of recreational time that has been generously afforded them.

That’s not my thumb-suck view: the very public world of Twitter tells you much of what you might fancy knowing about personal schedules and down-time priorities of sports stars these days.

Captain Graeme Smith even saw fit to introduce a tongue-in-cheek element to a tweet a few days ago: “Looking forward (to) Dec … Schalk Burger’s wedding (and) Christmas … love Christmas! Yes, yes, also the cricket, before I catch it again.”

The last bit, of course, was obviously a jocular reference to his copping it a fair bit from the South African public when he didn’t return from another failed World Cup campaign, in India, with the rest of the troops much earlier this year, opting instead to go to Europe before returning to our shores.

Still, it was good to know that the imminent visit of Sri Lanka, for a lengthier itinerary in South Africa than experienced recently when the Australians were here, hadn’t completely escaped the mind of the seasoned Test leader.

The world’s No 1 fast bowler Dale Steyn hasn’t exactly been over-stretched, either, although there was talk, in fairness, that he saw out the surrendered second and final Test against the Aussies last month with a back problem, so a limited work-load in the lead-up to the three-Test Sri Lankan series has perhaps not been a bad thing.

He recently tweeted some pictures from a break at Victoria Falls and this weekend revealed that some crayfish fishing was on his time-off roster.

Fellow head-hunter Morne Morkel, meanwhile, had a weekend request for his Twitter followers: “Need a (Nedbank Challenge) golf update please … on my way to Kruger Park for a couple of days.”

AB de Villiers revealed that he was spending some time in Cape Town, and lamenting the typical summer south-easterly wind: “CT the new windy city … definitely not playing golf today … quick brunch then the TV to watch Charl Schwartzel dominate.”

In defence of the players having a bonus “jolly”, after an unusually long off-season preceding the disappointingly squared Aussie mini-series, the timing of the CSA domestic scheduling this summer has been utterly lousy in the way in the way it has served – or rather, not served – the cause of Smith’s team.

There simply hasn’t been enough SuperSport Series four-day cricket available for the cream of the national squad to knuckle down to, whilst some have had less game-time than others toward the climax of the 1-Day Cup – the Lions, Titans and Dolphins did not advance beyond the round-robin phase.

Fortunately several Test stalwarts will presumably be in earnest preparation mode this week for the final of the 50-overs competition on Friday, featuring the Cobras against the Warriors at Newlands.

That group should include Smith, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Dale Steyn (Cobras), as well as the Warriors’ Ashwell Prince.

It will be fascinating to see whether Vernon Philander gets a game in the domestic showpiece – he was man of the series for his 14 wickets in the Tests against Australia but not yet been used by the Cobras in the 1-Day Cup where Rory Kleinveldt and veteran Charl Langeveldt have done well with the ball up front and they also have Steyn to call on at present plus plenty of all-rounders.

Philander is a classic case of a Proteas Test player who remains underdone for longer-format bowling mileage despite the season supposedly so well-established. Imran Tahir, entrusted with that tricky art of leg-spin, is certainly another.

Frankly, it’s high time a solid, intensive spate of cricket broke out.

Here’s hoping the Proteas are trim, fired-up and ready to hit the ground running in time for the first Test against the limited Lankans at Centurion (they finally reconvene as a group next Sunday) from December 15.

Has everyone been pulling hard enough in the hiatus?

Hmm, hope so …

Source: Sport24 – December 5, 2011 / ROB HOUWING