IT's high time we name this shot, I guess? © Getty Images
It’s high time we name this shot, shouldn’t we? © Getty Images

Born February 17, 1984, AB de Villiers turns 33 on Thursday. Age has never been a factor when the South African legend, the current holder of fastest One-Day International (ODI) 50, 100 and 150, is talked about. De Villiers made his ODI debut in 2005 at 21 and required 20 innings to reach his first ODI fifty and another 18 innings to his maiden ODI century. That was on April 10, 2007. 10 years have passed since then, and many a milestone has been overturned in the process. De Villiers has emerged as one of the most destructive batsmen across the globe. Despite the presence of the likes of Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and many other big hitters in cricket, de Villiers has easily reached a different level altogether. Although he has not made a mark in T20Is, de Villiers is certainly the lynchpin of their ODI and Test teams. Cricket fraternity does not imagine the Protea side beyond de Villiers. It is hard to even visualise what a South African team will look like without this calm and humble face in the line-up. Sakshi Gupta lists out his best 10 innings across formats.

149 vs West Indies at Johannesburg, January 18, 2015:

De Villiers broke at least two records during his knock of 149 against West Indies at New Wanderers. That match had seen centuries from all the batsmen in the top-order — Hashim Amla, Rilee Rossouw and de Villiers — The latter came in after Rossouw’s dismissal with 247 runs already on board. There was no pressure, no desperation for runs, and that brought out the best from the beast. While a lot of Indian fans watched India lose to Australia in the second ODI of their Carlton Mid One-Day International Tri-Series 2014-15, they regretted missing de Villiers’ masterpiece of 59 minutes.

That knock of just 44 balls at an unbelievable strike rate of 338.6 witnessed 16 sixes being smashed all over the park along with 9 boundaries, leaving the poor West Indians with clueless expressions at the end. De Villiers surpassed Corey Anderson’s fastest ODI ton from 36 balls after reaching his hundred in just 31 balls. He also broke Sanath Jayasuriya’s 19-year-old record of fastest ODI fifty by attaining that feat only in 16 balls. (Jayasuriya’s fifty came from 17 balls.)

112 vs India at Chennai, October 22, 2015:

It was the fourth of their five-match ODI series. South Africa won the first two, while India sealed the third match. Virat Kohli’s century helped India post 299 runs in a must win match in order to stay alive in the series. In reply, barring Quinton de Kock, the top-order ditched the Proteas and yet again de Villiers entered the field when he had no option but to stay till the end. South Africa were struggling at 79 for 3 in 14.4 overs, when de Villiers walked in.

This time there was no surprise when the crowd witnessed him becoming a lone warrior, as the others went on to throw away their wickets from the other end. AB made Chennai change the “In-di-a, In-di-a” chant to “A-B-D, A-B-D” as the master romped to a fantastic 107-ball 112 runs. His dismissal also gave a sigh of relief to MS Dhoni and co. as India went to win the match by 35 runs.

101 vs England at Cape Town, February 12, 2016:

This match was just another example of South Africa’s sheer dependency on de Villiers. It was the fifth ODI and the series decider of their five-match series against England. Although it was a low-scoring match as England only managed 236 runs in the first innings, the hosts struggled with three of their first four batsmen getting dismissed for a single-digit score. Enter de Villiers! The skipper remained unbeaten on 101 from 97 balls and ensured South Africa sealed the ODI series, especially after losing the Tests. His batted for 152 minutes, hitting 11 boundaries and a six.

278* vs Pakistan at Abu Dhabi, November 10, 2010:

It was the second match of the two-Test series between Pakistan and South Africa. With three wickets down and 33 runs on board, de Villiers joined Jacques Kallis on the crease. He remained unbeaten on 278 as South Africa posted 584 runs in the first innings, then the highest score by a South African. That is still his highest Test score where he had faced 418 balls. South Africa set a target of 354 runs in the final innings but the match eventually ended in a draw.

43 vs India at Delhi, December 3, 2015:

AB's superb 'blockathon' against India. Photo courtesy: _ _FULLNAME_ _YEAR_
AB’s superb ‘blockathon’ against India © ICC

It was the fourth and final match of the four-Test series between India and South Africa.  Having lost the series already with two losses in the first three Tests, South Africa had little but pride to play for going into the Delhi Test. India posted 334 in the first innings before bundling out South Africa for 121 runs (even then, de Villiers top-scored with 42). However, he left the best for the last. Although it was not enough to even draw the Test, but de Villiers’ 43 runs was an excellent example of a pure Test innings. He conquered the Indian attack for 297 balls along with Amla on the other end who like de Villiers was on the ‘blockathon.’ They together batted for 42.1 overs, clearly frustrating the Indians.

77 vs Pakistan at Auckland, March 7, 2015:

It was a group stage match of ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Another example of South Africa’s batting collapse after de Villiers’ dismissal. Pakistan posted 222 runs in the first innings and South Africa lost de Kock second ball. De Villiers entered the crease with South Africa struggling at 74 for 4. Two balls later they lost David Miller, leaving the skipper again in a situation where his good performance was mandatory. He scored quick 77 runs off 58 balls before becoming Sohail Khan’s victim. That knock consisted of 5 sixes and 7 boundaries.

33 vs Australia a Adelaide, November 22, 2012:

De Villiers’ has the capability of turning tables around single-handedly. This second Test between Australia and South Africa bears testimony to that. Australia set a target of 430 in a-day-and-a-half. South Africa finished Day Four on 77 for 4. With the likes of James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon in their arsenal, Australia was expected to win the match easily. They were 6 wickets away on the final day but South Africa had their go-to-man, de Villiers, on crease. He faced 246 balls, scoring 33 runs without a single boundary. Though he was dismissed, his innings had already frustrated the Australians enough that distracted their momentum. And South Africa managed to draw that match, thanks to Faf du Plessis.

(Sakshi Gupta, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a sports fanatic whose mantra in life is “do only what you enjoy.” Her Twitter handle is @sakshi2929)