Zaahier Adams in Harare – George Bailey told us something we have known for years yesterday. But having experienced the brilliance of AB de Villiers up close at the Harare Sports Club as the South African captain, along with maiden centurion Faf du Plessis, engineered a 328-run chase with consummate ease, the Australian captain joined the De Villiers praise-singing choir.
"De Villiers is difficult to set a field to. He's a nice batter. I think he's probably the best one-day batsman in the world, and you could see why that is today,” the Aussie stand-in skipper exclaimed after his counterpart’s unbeaten 136.
The fact that De Villiers, who suffered from severe cramp for the majority of his innings, was still at the crease when the winning runs were struck was partly due to Bailey’s individual blunder. After watching his ace left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson spill a straight-forward caught-and-bowled chance an over earlier, the Tasmanian followed suit when he put down an easier opportunity to dismiss De Villiers when the game was still in the balance.
“We did put down a couple of reasonably easy chances, which could have made the game a little different,” Bailey rued post-match, while De Villiers also counted his blessings: "I haven't scored a lot of runs of late so to score a few here is pleasing. I had a lot of chances and luckily I made it count."
It would be a great injustice to the South Africans if those dropped catches were deemed the main reason for the seven-wicket triumph though. Considering the calmness the South African batsmen, especially De Villiers and Du Plessis showed during their record-breaking 206-run partnership and later JP Duminy in his 29-ball 33 at the backend, illustrated that this group of players have the ability to handle the pressure of a big run-chase. With the World Cup in Australasia just six months, the value of the lessons learnt is multiplied.
“It is great confidence for us moving forward,” De Villiers said of the win. “We haven’t chased very well in the past and for us to cross the line like that means a lot to all of us. It’s a great boost of confidence for all of us.”
De Villiers, however, admitted that Australia’s decision to omit their only specialist spinner Nathan Lyon was beneficial to his team’s cause, especially after watching his tweaker Imran Tahir deliver an excellent spell of 2/45 in 10 overs earlier in the day.
“Australia doesn’t take nonsense from spinners, so the way Immy went was very good. He put a stop on the game for us at a crucial time. Very proud of his performance,” he said of the Pakistan-born leggie before continuing on Lyon omission. "I was surprised. We were all quite surprised by that, not playing Nathan, but that was still a pretty amazing cricket team that played today and we were just a better team today."
With the benefit of hindsight that the fan-fare of the “438” match back in 2006 was associated with in the aftermath, De Villiers stressed that it was only the first game of a tri-angular series and his team would remain humble going forward in this series, that also includes hosts Zimbabwe.
However, when pressed whether his team are steaming ahead in their World Cup preparations, he responded with the same sort of sort of precision he had displayed out in the middle at the Harare Sport Club.
“There is no doubt that we have what it takes,” De Villiers said of the Proteas’ World Cup prospects. “We are a long way away from the finished product but we are moving in the right direction. It’s important for us to stay in the now; we have a big game coming up against Zimbabwe in two days so our focus is on that.” - Independent Newspapers