It’s been over two years that AB de Villiers has retired from international cricket. Now, he only turns up for T20 leagues. Before IPL13, the last he played was in January in Australia’s Big Bash.
In such a situation, and especially for one who is 36, it would be expected that reflexes would slow and lack of match rhythm show. De Villiers has, however, defied logic and lit up this competition. That he has put to shade someone of the calibre of Virat Kohli underlines what a special player the South African is.
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On Saturday afternoon at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, de Villiers produced another special to lift Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to a seven-wicket victory over a stunned Rajasthan Royals (RR).
With 64 needed off 30 balls, RCB had their backs to the wall at the start of the 15th over. The tough equation got tougher with 35 to get off the last 12. But, restored to No. 4 in the batting order, de Villiers smashed the first three balls of the 19th over for sixes and Gurkeerat Singh chipped in with a four to reduced it to 10 needed off the 20th. De Villiers then sealed the deal with a six off the third last ball and complete a 22-ball half-century.
Known as Mr 360 for strokes all around the wicket, de Villiers kept it simple on Saturday. He took apart Unadkat with his power hitting rather than using the crease.
“When Unadkat was bowling (the 19th over), I was looking leg side but to be honest I was nervous because I knew I had to hit it well. Luckily I got a few away,” said de Villiers at the post-match presentation.
RR captain Steve Smith admitted it was a bitter pill to swallow. It was a game in which he batted superbly and his team did little wrong till the 39th over.
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In his familiar No. 4 position, Smith scored a crafty 57 off 37 balls to help RR post 177/6 after electing to bat. The highlight of his innings was his battle with Yuzvendra Chahal. The leg-spinner is the leader of the RCB attack and again set the tone for their bowling performance with a double blow in the eighth over by prizing out Robin Uthappa and Sanju Samson. However, he met his match in Smith in the 18th over when the Royals captain gave an exhibition of how to counter Chahal’s guile.
Chahal is a leg-spinner who doesn’t dazzle with a big turn or variations like Shane Warne, but likes to play with the batsman’s mind. Many of his victims are lured to doom by a wide flighted delivery or cramped for room with one pitched up. But Chahal was at his wits end as Smith manipulated his line of attack by using the switch-hit and coming down the track for three fours in a 19-run over. The pick of the shots was the third four in the over that Smith hit by changing position midway and smashing it to the point fence.
However, two South Africans combined to prevent a perfect finish for Smith. Chris Morris (4-0-23-4) bowled an outstanding last over to take out Smith and concede only four runs and later, de Villiers upset all his bowling plans.