Napier pitch excites AB

Category : News

South Africa will try to go for the one-day international series kill against New Zealand on Wednesday on a pitch that may not differ too much from the Wanderers back home.

The Proteas lead one-nil entering the second of three ODIs (03:00 SA time) and by all accounts McLean Park in Napier ought to be an unusual belter by Kiwi standards.

In a Cricket South Africa audio release of his captain’s press conference ahead of the game, AB De Villiers said the venue had a “hard pitch … rock hard”.

He added: “It’s the hardest (one) I’ve tapped in this country yet, by a long way.”

De Villiers anticipates a potentially high-scoring affair – in line with the ground’s reputation – on a good one-day strip which may offer some bounce to his tall seamers like Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe but not necessarily much in the way of seam movement, which makes a change from most other New Zealand pitches.

He also hinted heavily that the Proteas would go in with the same XI which saw off the Black Caps by six wickets on Saturday.

“It’s tough to make changes when you are winning; we’ll probably pretty much go with the same combination.”

That may be dependent on the fitness of top-order batsmen Graeme Smith, who has been nursing a “stiff and sore” arm, and Hashim Amla who has a cold; De Villiers nevertheless fancies both to take their places.

Asked about his non-usage of all-rounder Albie Morkel in a bowling capacity in the victory at Wellington, the skipper said it was purely down to on-the-day circumstance.

“It’s not that I don’t back Albs … things just worked out that way (at Westpac Stadium).

“Every time I considered using Albie something else just came up.”

De Villiers also praised the economy of main spinner Robin Peterson – the left-armer conceded only 45 runs in his full 10 overs for two wickets – in Wellington, considering that he had tended to bowl at unfavourable times from a run-tempo point of view.

Source: Sport 24 – February 28, 2012 / ROB HOUWING

Win easy as AB de Villiers

Category : News

Abraham Benjamin de Villiers led from the front in a one-day batting master class as South Africa flexed its limited overs muscle last night to beat New Zealand by six wickets with 28 balls to spare in the opening match of the 50-over series.

The man known simply as “AB” posted his 13th ODI century off 101 balls before finishing undefeated on 106 at exactly a run a ball.

The victory was another chance for the visitors to assert their authority and compound the frustration for the hosts who again showed glimpses of parity. It was New Zealand’s first loss in eight one-day internationals at Westpac Stadium in front of a crowd that was more upturned yellow seats than captivated fans.

De Villiers (28) is looking a fine choice as South Africa’s limited overs captain in the wake of Graeme Smith’s post-World Cup abdication. Being the No 2 ranked one-day batsman in the world is further comfort in a crisis.

He came to the wicket at 35 for three in the 10th over. De Villiers compiled his runs easily with a strength being singles through the leg side when New Zealand’s bowlers strayed onto his pads. Short balls were also gratefully dispatched in a midwicket to long on arc. None would have been more satisfying than the lofted drive which sailed into the players’ tunnel, adjacent to the New Zealand team hutch.

De Villiers and J-P Duminy gave the South Africa innings its necessary spine. The pair employed an accumulation strategy when they came together after 9.5 overs. For 11 overs they exercised patience, putting on their first 43 runs with just one boundary. Their eventual partnership of 90 gave South Africa the necessary traction to cruise to the win.

Left-hander Duminy proved an admirable foil with 46, forcing the field to switch and disorientate itself regularly as the singles mounted. Faf du Plessis also proved worthy with an unbeaten 66 from 49 balls to close out the match.

The Kiwis set a well-paced 253 for nine and backed it with early wickets and tight fielding as they looked to absolve remnants of Wednesday’s deciding Twenty 20 choke. However, hints of doubt always remained on a batting-friendly wicket with decent carry.

Runs on the board proved an early weapon. Tim Southee channelled controlled fury rather than his recent loose-lipped bravado to scythe through the defences of the world’s best one-day batsman Hashim Amla.

Kyle Mills also looked fresh despite a recent stomach bug to snap up Graeme Smith with a ball jagging away. Rather than their use of spin to open up the Twenty20 matches, Nathan McCullum had to wait his turn until the 13th over.

New Zealand’s innings was notable for its adaptability away from the T20 frenzy. Time was set aside for strokemaking, particularly guiding the ball backward of point through the offside, rather than looking to smash through midwicket at every opportunity. Singles were a cherished commodity; compilation rather than combat was the trend.

The New Zealanders rarely looked under threat, even from the likes of Dale Steyn who made his first international appearance in this country. Steyn showed touches of class with his off- and leg-cutters but New Zealand’s ability to nullify the tearaway for the most part (even on a batsman’s wicket) will have instilled confidence.

McCullum’s innings was appropriately restrained as he tried to establish a significant total knowing the South African batting might to come. His 56 off 67 balls lacked flamboyance but it was a captain’s knock. He faced 41 balls and made 21 runs before hitting his first boundary. However, it was the sensible option after the early loss of Martin Guptill (his first international score under 10 since early December). McCullum also received the benefit of the doubt on two decision reviews; one for a lbw given by his former Otago team-mate turned umpire Chris Gaffaney when he shouldered arms first ball, and the other a caught behind that went against South Africa.

Williamson continues to impress with his adaptability between each cricketing format. A strike rate of 116 in the T20s was eased back last night to a shade under 80 in his 55. He used the pace of the ball to milk runs at will and his ability to play equally off the front or back foot stands him in good stead for matching the formidable Proteas’ test attack.

Left-arm pace bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe was the pick of the bowlers with two wickets for 41 including an opening spell of one for 15 from six overs. He produced a nagging line just short of a length over the wicket and the New Zealanders found him hard to get away. When he pitched up to Guptill and Williamson they edged behind to de Villiers which was just reward.

Source: NZ Herald – February 26, 2012

New Zealand, new challenge for de Villiers

Category : News

AB de Villiers has been on 15 international tours but his next one, the upcoming series in New Zealand, may as well be his first. Not only does it take him to a country he has never toured before but it is his opening overseas assignment as captain of South Africa’s limited-overs sides.

Since taking over the leadership role last June, de Villiers has had just one opportunity to actually lead. January’s five-match rubber against Sri Lanka was his first in charge. South Africa won the series 3-2 but it was manner of results rather than the results themselves that got de Villiers noticed.

Under him, nothing stood still. Not the No. 4 position in the batting order, which was rotated between him, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis, not the regular pattern of bowling changes, not the scoring rate. South Africa seemed to have more life, they played with a different intent and although they lost the last two matches in the series, they did not appear to stop having fun. De Villiers said the trip to New Zealand is a chance for the good times to keep rolling.

“We are young side and we have a lot to prove. We are going to try and get a bit of a team spirit going over there,” he said in Johannesburg, ahead of the team’s departure for Auckland. “It’s tough to get a team spirit going when you are at home, things are a bit disjointed, but on tour there’s nothing else to do but be with your team-mates. We’re going to have a good time over there.”

Since making his ODI debut in 2005, de Villiers has been all about fun on the field. As the years have gone on, he has also developed a more thoughtful side to his game and it’s the combination of the surreal and the serious that saw him progress to the captaincy. de Villiers is a deeply passionate and proud man. As a result, losing is always failing to him and the collective is always more important than the individual. Travelling to New Zealand will test all these values, adding to what will already make the series compelling.

New Zealand knocked South Africa out of the last World Cup and they have also had a successful summer, winning a Test in Australia and mauling Zimbabwe. Like South Africa, they are building towards something and their blend of youth and experience seems to be at its optimum. In their backyard, where South Africa have not been since 2004, de Villiers said any opposition will have to be wary. “They are a very clever team, they think on their feet,” he said. “But hopefully, we’ll be the smarter team in the series.”

The tour is the first of three overseas outings for South Africa this year and will be used as the springboard for what is being billed as the contest of 2012, in England. “We understand that this tour is important for our tour to England. This will be a very competitive series. This is a big tour in terms of what we want to achieve as a Test side,” coach Gary Kirsten said. Should South Africa whitewash New Zealand in their three-Test series, they will take over the No. 1 ranking. If they don’t, they will have another chance in England.

Before they even look that far, they have three Twenty20 internationals and three ODIs to contest. The former will be crucial to their plans to win an ICC Trophy for the first time since 1998, at the World T20. South Africa play 11 T20s before that competition, including five against Zimbabwe, and Kirsten said the New Zealand series will allow them to start strategising.

“The T20 team is a very young team, so there will be a lot of energy,” he said. One of the newest members of that side is opening batsman Richard Levi, who replaces Graeme Smith. Levi has been setting fireworks off in the domestic twenty-over competition for the last two seasons and Kirsten said he hopes that will translate on to the international stage. “We would be very excited if we could have a batsman in our top six that is consistently explosive. Let’s remember that the pinch-hitters haven’t come off in the shorter format of the game so if he comes off and becomes a superstar for South Africa cricket we will all be very happy.”

Levi, Marchant de Lange and recalled all-rounder Justin Ontong are three names de Villiers says are “exciting to be going to the World T20 with,” and he hopes to integrate them into the side as quickly as possible. The trio are entering the set-up at a welcoming time, with a creative captain who will demand nothing but their best.

In addition to the expectations on his team, de Villiers also has high hopes for himself. He wants to use the trip to develop and enforce his own style. “I thought the boys responded well to my leadership but I am not there yet, I’ve got a lot to learn.”

His education will come on a maiden voyage to New Zealand and as captain. At his departure press conference, de Villiers looked and sounded as excited and nervous as a teenager about to attend his first high-school ball. By the sounds of it, a ball of a different kind is in order in New Zealand.

Source: CricInfo – February 10, 2012 / FIRDOSE MOONDA

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. de Villiers: the baby-faced captain with the ruthless streak

Category : News

The recent ODI series against the Sri Lankans saw the Proteas win 3-2. It was also the debut of AB de Villiers’ captaincy. PAUL BERKOWITZ was pleasantly surprised by the flair and innovation that he’s brought to the captaincy.

A conversation I had years ago on the steps of UCT’s Jameson Hall sticks in my mind. Actually, it was more of a monologue, nay, a soliloquy, to which my brilliant friend was subjecting me. The topic of this one-way chat was the lack of imagination in the various South African sporting codes with particular emphasis on Saru and the Springboks.

“Paul” (he declaimed) “if Jonah Lomu was born a South African, those morons in coaching and administration would have stuck him in the scrum without a second thought. South African rugby only knows one way to play; breed them big, heavy and dumb, and try to physically crush the opposition.”

Fair assessment or mean-spirited rant, his words remain with me. The portrayal of South African sporting codes and teams as unimaginative, boring and staid is a familiar and comforting cliché. It’s also not consistently true – rugby has changed and changed back again, cycling through periods of creative brilliance and unattractive bloody-mindedness. That’s partly a function of different coaching styles and partly a reflection of how the rules of the game constantly evolve (prompting changes in tactics as a result).

South African cricket, unfortunately, hasn’t been able to silence its accusers. Since readmission, our cricket has been described as solid and professional by its more charitable biographers. At worst it’s been described as stale and without any flair. For the best part of the last decade, both the Test and ODI teams were captained by Graeme Smith. His fans (I do not count myself among them) speak of his leadership qualities. Certainly his never-say-die attitude has helped to rally the troops in the past, but has he gone far enough to inspire them? I remain unconvinced.

Smith has captained the team to many famous victories, which include series wins in England and Australia. He’s imposed himself on adverse situations and carried the team over the finish line by dint of his force of will and sheer bloody-mindedness. He shines at his brightest when the pressure is ratcheted up and the team is on the back foot, but is seemingly happy to coast along when the Proteas are leading.

The most obvious symptom of his killer instinct bypass operation is the relatively tame fields that he sets for our bowlers in tests. During the recent series against Sri Lanka the Proteas had the visitors hopelessly outgunned at both Centurion and Newlands. It was bad enough that Smith eschewed a third slip at Centurion when yet another Sri Lankan wicket had fallen, or took off the fired-up Philander-Steyn duo in the first innings, gifting the visitors 50 runs more than they deserved. At Newlands, with about a bazillion runs in the bank and the match in the bag, I don’t remember him sparing more than three men behind the wicket for Imran Tahir.

Tahir is a bowler with enough turn and variation to warrant at least one more man on the leg side, and he might have had another wicket with more support from his captain – one or two sharp chances evaded short leg but might have been held by a leg slip. Even if he hadn’t, the support and faith shown by a captain can do wonders for a bowler’s confidence. Conversely, when a captain sets a defensive holding-pattern of a field for his bowler, he’s subconsciously telling him that he doesn’t expect a wicket from him.

It’s the failure to hold his knee fast against his enemy’s windpipe and finish off the job that tarnishes his captaincy in my eyes. Contrast his approach with that of Steve Waugh, a junkyard dog of a captain who could smell fear coming off the opposition and it made him want to kill and break bits off them. Even a captain like Michael Vaughn, when he realised that Matthew Hoggard was doing something terrible and brilliant to the Proteas at the Wanderers duly supplied him with 12 slips, three gullies and various other fielders in catching positions so that he could do his demolition job properly.

Maybe part of the problem has been the unfortunate ‘chokers’ tag that has hung around the metaphorical neck of the team like (ahem) a millstone. The Proteas have spent so many years trying to shake off the label that they haven’t spent any time discovering how to be positive and proactive when they play. During former coach Mickey Arthur’s tenure the stated goal and catchphrase was to play “brave cricket”, but that was successful like Kelsey Grammer post-Frasier.

The talent is there. It’s just not always utilised properly. How much of the blame can be laid at the feet of the captain and how much at the feet of the sports administration is difficult to say. I’m inclined to blame Smith for the most part. (Such is my bias and freely admitted, too.)

To be honest, when I heard that the ODI captaincy was to be handed from Smith to AB de Villiers, I didn’t expect much to change. Pretty with the bat, good behind the stumps, and photogenic on the cover of a gospel album, he comes across as boy-next-door and completely predictable. I was wrong.

In the first ODI, his desire to win was evident in his batting, where he made 52 runs off just 40 balls. Most of the time, he seems to bat so effortlessly and so quickly that nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It was in the second ODI where his ruthlessness was laid bare, where he showed that he could crush the enemy under his jackboot. It was beautiful to watch.

The stage was set with the unearthly run-out of Dilshan courtesy of Faf du Plessis in the first over. The Sri Lankans remained half-stunned for too long after this initial blow and never really got their innings started, but de Villiers kept them clamped tight in the vice, taking the bowling powerplay at the earliest opportunity, setting attacking fields and drying up many of the runs. When Sri Lanka’s second wicket fell in the 29th over, De Villiers sent more men inside the catching circle, placed second slips and generally did his best to breathe down the visitors’ necks. I rubbed my eyes and adjusted the colour on the TV, but sure enough it was the Proteas playing.

The Proteas won the five-match ODI series in the first three games. The first game was an easy romp and a great cosmic first ball to be bowled as captain. The second game was taken by the scruff of its neck and De Villiers tried every trick to shut the Lankans out of the game. The third was another slightly lucky gift from the gods.

The fourth and fifth games were ultimately won by a resurgent Sri Lankan side, but De Villiers continued to attack and press the advantage when he had it. Batting first in the penultimate ODI, he took the batting powerplay as early as the 22nd over while at the crease with Smith. Smith holed out during those five overs and De Villiers clubbed three fours and three sixes, going on to make 96 runs off 76 balls. There could be no better tableau to depict the changing of the guard.

The new man in charge seems to be ready to go Genghis Khan on the opposition at the slightest provocation. Long may it continue.

The final ODI was a complete letdown. Probably all of the excitement and adrenaline had caught up with De Villiers and he was mentally tired. Certainly the Wanderers was a bit of a paint-by-numbers affair. But if this first series is anything to go by, the Proteas are no longer going to die wondering what might have been. They’re going to die trying, at least in the ODIs. The new captain is able to think on his feet, is capable of winning games on his batting alone, and is issuing his bowlers all sorts of licenses to kill.

Whether we ultimately win a World Cup with our new Proteas: Black Ops edition is not important. What is important is that we might be ready for a brand of cricket that is smart, aggressive and very attractive to watch. Save the nice boy routine for the Musica Megastore shelves, AB. On the field, don’t stop going for their throats.

Source: Daily Maverick – February 2, 2012