AB de Villiers running
Flee, AB, flee, while there is still time! © Getty Images

As bowlers around the globe are on a perpetual lookout to stop AB de Villiers, he of the physics-defying, bowler-bullying, round-the-wheel, 150-batting strike-rate fame, the Basseterre Test of 2010 may be something they can look at for inspiration. While no human force was good enough to stop AB on a rampage that day, he had to give in to an external force. It could not stop him from getting his hundred, but at least it made him leave the ground, albeit temporarily. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at June 19, 2010, when nature summoned the freak of nature at Warner Park.

How to stop a rampant, run-hungry AB de Villiers when he is hungry for a hundred and the team score reads 400-something for 5, your captain having an eye on the declaration? How to contain them when the only requirement of him is to score as quickly as possible on a flat track?

It was not the West Indian bowling that did it. It was the St Kitts food. Exactly what AB had is not known, but it was certainly not that agreed with his stomach.

South Africa had started the 2010 series on a high. Though no batsman reached 70 at Queen’s Park Oval, they managed to score 352 before Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel knocked the hosts over for a paltry 102. Chasing 457, the steam ran out of West Indies once they were down to 194 for 7, but the eventual total of 293 was not too bad.

A lot of runs

The sides moved on to Basseterre, where Graeme Smith rightly opted to bat on a placid track. Alviro Petersen helped him add 99 and Hashim Amla another 112, and by the time Jacques Kallis walked out West Indies were as good as batted out of the Test.

Smith fell on the first evening for a solid 132, leaving Kallis on 45 and de Villiers on 7. The score read 296 for 3. It was the perfect launching pad.

More runs

Kallis and AB began brightly the next morning, launching into an onslaught against the West Indians from the beginning. De Villiers increased the pace as the day’s play progressed; he started by pulling and cover-driving Ravi Rampaul for two fours in three balls, and almost immediately lofted Shane Shillingford over the wide long-on fence.

On came Sulieman Benn, and de Villiers hit a four and a six. Kallis eventually fell for 110, but by then de Villiers had raced to a 90-ball 60, and, more significantly, was looking as ominous as he ever had.

Kemar Roach was treated disdainfully, with successive drives for fours. He lost Ashwell Prince, but that did not deter him. He went on.

Then, for some reason, he started getting a bit fidgety. There was a sudden urgency in his batting. In The Extraordinary Book of SA Cricket, David O’Sullivan and Kevin McCallum referred to it as “a pained expression on his face.”

He reached 91 in 128 balls before sweeping Benn for four. Then, almost on the cue, he came down the track and lofted Benn into the stands. The hundred had taken 130 balls; the second fifty, a mere 46.

The great escape

The hundred was achieved. There were two balls left in Benn’s over. De Villiers flicked the first without a lot of intent, dead-batted the next, and ran. And ran.

And ran.

And kept running, across the fence, till he disappeared into the green door of the pavilion…

What was wrong? Had Smith declared? No, that was not possible, for Mark Boucher was still out there…

Legend goes that Paul Harris tried to find out what had gone wrong with AB, whether he had retired out, whether he had wanted to change his pad, whether he had an amulet he needed to touch…

Harris eventually found out. Indeed, the St Kitts food had not gone well with his system.

As a relieved (no pun intended) de Villiers jogged back, one of his teammates threw a toilet paper roll at him. AB could not help but laugh.

The smile was infectious.

Only Chris Gayle — the West Indian captain — seemed unaffected, lying down on the grass. They all had a good laugh, including Asad Rauf and Simon Taufel, once AB officially told them why he had gone missing.

It later transpired that de Villiers had taken a tablet during the drinks interval. As the television channel re-played the video, Robin Jackman suggested on air that it could have been, well, a laxative.

What followed?

Smith declared on 543 for 6 on the second afternoon with AB de Villiers unbeaten on 135. South Africa probably anticipated further inroads when West Indies became 151 for 3, but Shivnarine Chanderpaul ended up carving a 357-ball 166 in the company of Brendan Nash (114). Benn and Rampaul added 59 for the ninth wicket to take the hosts past South Africa’s total. The match fizzled out to a draw.

There was no respite for the West Indians at Kensington Oval. Steyn led the rout with 3 for 37 and 3 for 36, and West Indies, bowled out for 231 and 161, lost by 7 wickets and conceded the series 0-2.

Postscript

O’Sullivan and McCallum mentioned AB’s statement after the match: “I don’t know how to describe it; it’s just one of those feelings that comes to you and there’s not much you can do about it — you’ve got to run off the field. I decided to have a go and when I got to the hundred, I told Boucher, ‘Jis, I’m going to have to do something here.’ I don’t know if it’s something I ate, but you know when you get cold sweat on the forehead and when that happened I knew I had to go.”

Brief scores:

 South Africa 543 for 6 decl. (Graeme Smith 132, Alviro Petersen 52, Jacques Kallis 116, AB de Villiers 135*; Shane Shillingford 3 for 193) and 235 for 3 (Hashim Amla 62) drew with West Indies 546 (Chris Gayle 50, Narsingh Deonarine 65, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 166, Brendan Nash 114, Dwayne Bravo 53; Morne Morkel 4 for 116).

Man of the Match: Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)