Two years ago, international cricket bid adieu to AB de Villiers, one of the greatest stars to have played the game. South Africa’s star batsman represented the Proteas across 114 Test matches, 228 ODIs and 78 T20Is during his blistering 14-year-long career. With a Test average of 50.66 for his team, de Villiers was the fourth-highest run-scorer for South Africa, with 8765 runs, which included 22 centuries as well.
Unlike many cricketing legends of the game, AB de Villiers was not known as a high-scoring Test batsman. However, many of his knocks have come during important situations for his team, which rates among the best for his side. On that note, let’s have a look at the best Test knocks by ‘Mr. 360’
106* vs Australia - Perth (December 2008)
South Africa had an important point to prove against Australia and were coming into this game in hot form, unlike their opponents. However, the Aussies were still the top Test team at that time and the Proteas had always seemed to falter against the Aussie giants.
The South Africans were set a daunting target of 414 after being bowled out for 281 while chasing the home side’s first innings score of 375.
With the score reading 179/3, de Villiers stepped on to the pitch and went on to score an unbeaten 106 in 186 balls at a strike-rate of 56.98. He set up two consecutive 100-run partnerships with Jacques Kallis and then JP Duminy to ensure his team sealed a six-wicket victory to complete the second-highest run chase in Test history. This was also the highest successful run chase against Australia in their home territory.
278* vs Pakistan - Abu Dhabi (November 2010)
Having already established himself as a class batsman by the time South Africa played Pakistan in 2010, AB de Villiers played another class innings for his side, beating the highest individual Test score for South Africa, a record later broken by Hashim Amla against England in 2012.
After drawing the first Test of this two-match series, de Villiers scored an unbeaten 278 off 418 balls, striking at 66.50. During his stellar innings, de Villiers hit 23 boundaries and beat the previous record held by former skipper Graeme Smith, which was 277.
Although the star striker had a chance to score the first triple ton by a South African, the innings was declared at 584 with the team eyeing a victory. However, their plans were thwarted by then Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, who saw the game through and led his team to a draw.
33 vs Australia - Adelaide (November 2012)
Mostly known for his explosive batting, AB de Villiers has scored the record-fastest ODI half-century, century and 150. However, playing against their arch-rivals Australia, AB de Villiers showed his fans another aspect of his game, one that was calm and mature - the perfect attributes for a Test batsman.
Australia scored a mammoth 550 in the first innings, while the Proteas were trailing by 162 runs at the beginning of the second innings. With a target of 430 runs to win, the South Africans were set for an imminent defeat but their star player had other plans in store.
Playing alongside a young Faf du Plessis, de Villiers blocked out the Aussie pacers, scored 33 runs off 220 balls, whilst not hitting a single boundary. He set up an 89-run stand with du Plessis, who scored a century himself, ensuring his side secured a draw.
83 vs New Zealand - Hamilton (March 2012)
Although Vernon Philander’s 6/44 sealed the victory for South Africa against New Zealand in this game, AB de Villiers played a crucial knock in the first innings, chasing New Zealand’s score of 185.
The Kiwi batting disappointed fans but bowler Mark Gillespie seemed to turn the tide for his side, running through the South African top order. Entering the pitch while his team was on the brink of collapse was no easy task, but AB de Villiers helped them recover from 88/6 to reach the score of 253.
He scored 83 runs off 133 balls at a rate of 62.40. Philander did the rest for the Proteas in the second innings, with South Africa going on to comfortably win the match by nine wickets.
126* vs Australia - Port Elizabeth (March 2018)
After a two-year hiatus from the sport, AB de Villiers returned to the longest form of the game to represent South Africa during Australia’s tour of the African nation. The Proteas hosted India before this, beating them 2-1 before welcoming the Aussies. However, they could not replicate the same form as the previous series, after losing the first Test against the visitors from Down Under, and the second Test seemed no different, at the outset anyway.
After bowling out the Aussies for 243 in the first innings, the top order of the Proteas were unable to stay at the crease, losing wickets consistently. De Villiers, however, rallied on as the wickets fell around him.
With the score reading 227/7 after the wicket of Quinton de Kock, de Villiers was on 53. He played on to reach an unbeaten 126 and led his team to a total of 382. South Africa went on to win the match by six runs, aided in no small part by a Kagiso Rabada masterclass, who scalped six Australian wickets to help his team to victory.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Gianluigi Guercia