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By Bharath Ramaraj
When a sportsman touches the outer limits of well-defined boundaries, we marvel at his sheer skill and exhilarating effort. In the game played between England and South Africa in ICC World T20 2014, South Africa’s middle-order batsman, AB de Villiers, was one such cricketer who took his game to glorious heights and left everyone gasping for breath.
When de Villiers walked to the crease at Chittagong, the match was still in balance. England had a window of opportunity to claw their way back into the game. However, de Villiers shut the door on England with a timeless composition.
De Villiers opened up his shoulders to play his natural game when he faced the off-spinner, James Tredwell during the middle overs of the innings. The shot that he played off Tredwell in the 12th over of the game went as straight as an arrow to crash into the boundary boards. It just gave an inkling that he was in the mood to up the ante and take the game away from England’s grasp.
With dew coming into play, England seamers resorted to the tactic of bowling back of a length stuff. Stuart Broad in particular, tested the middle of the pitch. Yet, de Villiers had an answer even for it, as with a debonair pull shot he thwacked a boundary off Broad.
It was the erratic Jade Dernbach though, who rekindled the spirits of shot-making in de Villiers. De Villiers has that god-gifted ability to make the best in the business look rather ordinary and then you have Dernbach bowling to him.
Dernbach bowled half volleys and full tosses and no wonder, de Villiers explored the nook and cranny of the ground, while facing up to him. He went down on one knee to essay a breathtakingly beautiful shot down the ground. To play a shot on one knee down the ground requires immense power and precise timing. He then crossed his half-century mark with another six. The 50 off 23 balls he scored turned out to be the fastest half-century by a South African in T20Is.
He didn’t leave the young seamer, Chris Jordan either. The reverse paddle sweep he played against Jordan would be reverberated for a long time to come. To change your grip and set yourself up to play a reverse paddle makes one wonder whether he has preternatural hand-eye co-ordination. He followed it up by walking across towards the off-stump to swat Jordan like a fly over the mid-wicket region for a six. The forlorn look on Broad’s face said it all. It has to be said that de Viliers’s innings proved to be the telling difference between the two sides.
South Africa are blessed to have a cricketer like de Villiers in their ranks. He is a magician who wields his willow like a magic wand to paint grounds with his sparkling stroke-play and leave the opposition in a state of trance. In short, we are watching once in a lifetime cricketer.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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