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Cricket: Masterful AB De Villiers continues to shine

AB de Villiers. Photo / Getty
AB de Villiers. Photo / Getty

Who could blame New Zealand cricket fans gleaning closet joy from watching AB de Villiers bat?

If you look beyond patriotism and embrace a love for the sport, the South African captain exceeds expectations on every score.

He exudes the sort of grace to transcend any generation gap.

Injuries have ruled the 33-year-old, albeit temporarily, out of the test game. Cricket lovers must cherish any chance to watch him live.

Today's 85 from 80 balls rejuvenated a flatlining Proteas innings.

After entering at 114 for two in the 23rd over, his side plummeted to 180 for six in the 39th. He stayed until the second ball of the last over when Jimmy Neesham plucked a catch on the deep mid-wicket boundary.

"We started losing a few wickets... but over the years I've learnt to counter that. It comes through experience, learning from mistakes and a deep hunger to succeed.

"There's nothing like contributing... and seeing the smiles on my teammates' faces."

De Villiers became the fastest ODI batsman to 9000 runs during his stay. He reached the mark in 205 innings, eclipsing Sourav Ganguly's 228.

The feat was completed with a pull for four off Lockie Ferguson. Ferguson breached his defence early with a short ball clocking 144km/h, but the world's second-ranked ODI batsman would not be trumped twice.

De Villiers finished his innings with an average of 54.04 and a perfect 100 strike rate from 9080 balls faced in the format across 12 years.

It also added to his record at a venue where he had previously made 106 not out against New Zealand in February 2012 and 99 against the United Arab Emirates at the 2015 World Cup.

De Villiers anticipation and versatility to play through 360 degrees is peerless. He is one of the contemporary batsmen Black Caps captain Kane Williamson enjoys watching most (present series presumably excepted).

"How he plays his cricket is something to admire," Williamson said. "He always plays for the right reasons, to win games of cricket for his country as opposed to playing for his own stats.

"When you play people like that, and there's not many in the world who have the skill and the attitude, then they're a big threat.

"It is important we dismiss him, even if he does score runs. It'd be nice to get him earlier, but sometimes you need to tip your hat to a good knock."

Each match in this series has provided a gauge of de Villiers' talisman-like impact.

His 37 not out, including the winning straight loft for four, got the Proteas home in the opening match at Hamilton; his 45, when Trent Boult coaxed a bottom edge from a pull, was the seminal moment in New Zealand levelling the series in Christchurch.

The essence for fans is to treasure what they see. Who knows when - or if - he will return?​

Fastest batsmen to 9000 ODI runs

AB de Villiers (205 innings)
Sourav Ganguly (228 innings)
Sachin Tendulkar (235 innings)
Brian Lara (239 innings)
Ricky Ponting (242 innings)
Jacques Kallis (242 innings)

- NZ Herald

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