Ahh, Abraham Benjamin de Villiers. The pioneer of most of the modern day T20 Cricket shots, de Villiers has the exceptional talent of playing shots all around the ground, with astounding balance and follow through, earning him the nickname ‘Mr. 360′. Most of his shots can be attributed to the fact that he excelled in other sports like tennis and hockey at school level. De Villiers’ journey in the IPL started with the Delhi Daredevils, now known as Delhi Capitals, as he played for them in the first 3 seasons of the T20 extravaganza. In 2011, the RCB bought him in the auction for $1.5 million (approximately Rs. 6.6 crore at that point) and since then, just like the likes of Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle, he has gone on to become a poster boy for the Bangalore based franchise.
The former South African Cricketer, who is considering a return to International Cricket, gave us plenty of memorable performances in the IPL, both for Delhi and Bangalore. So, here are 5 of his best performances:
5) 105*(54), Delhi Daredevils v Chennai Super Kings at Kingsmead, Durban, IPL 2009
This game had signs of what was to come from the South African maestro over the next few editions of the IPL. Batting first, Delhi lost both their openers, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag in consecutive overs. Former Sri Lankan opener Tillekaratne Dilshan walked out to join de Villiers at the centre. The two of them stitched up a partnership of 68, with Dilshan taking on the bowling, slamming 5 fours and 2 sixes in his first 15 balls, while de Villiers quietly went on about his business at the other end.
Once Dilshan fell, slapping a full toss off Morkel straight to Raina at cover, the scoring rate started to subside, as Chennai managed to get almost 5 overs in without conceding a boundary. But once Dinesh Karthik fell in the last ball of the 14th Over, de Villiers decided to take matters into his own hands. It also helped his case that Albie Morkel dropped a sitter that he gave away after reaching his fifty of 35 balls.
In the last 4 overs, the mid wicket and long on area were peppered and cleared several times by de Villiers, as he built a partnership off 74 in quick time with Manoj Tiwary, who made only 9 out of them. De Villiers’ ball striking was very pleasing to the eye, as he took 20 off the 19th over from Andrew Flintoff, and brought up his hundred off the last ball of the same over, taking 51 balls in all. His second fifty took only 19 balls.
Chasing a target of 190, Chennai Super Kings got off to a flier. With 56 runs in the first 5 overs, Matthew Hayden scoring 35 off them in just 17 balls, Chennai looked to be well on course of the run chase. Despite losing his opening partner, Parthiv Patel, Hayden kept at it, and reached his fifty off just 22 deliveries. Delhi clawed their way back in the game by picking up Hayden at the end of the 8th Over. With 84 required in the second half of the innings, CSK lost their skipper, MS Dhoni, and the game got tilted towards Delhi’s favour. Raina played a decent cameo, bringing the equation down to 51 off 36, partnered by Andrew Flintoff, before holing out to de Villiers at long on. Albie Morkel then came in and tried his level best to get his team across the line, but regular fall of wickets at the other end ensured a victory for the Delhi Daredevils by a meagre margin of 9 runs.
4) 129*(52), Royal Challengers Bangalore v Gujarat Lions at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
We talked about one half of the 229 run mammoth partnership in this game yesterday, now it’s time to talk about the other. After put in to bat, RCB lost Gayle early, and de Villiers walked out to join Virat Kohli. All Kohli had to do was play at a run a ball and provide de Villiers the strike, hitting the occasional boundary. Despite batting on a slow pitch, de Villiers released a repertoire of conventional, clean, Cricket shots against a hapless Gujarat Lions bowling attack, who were carted to all parts of the ground by the man known as Mr. 360.
While de Villiers’ first 50 took 25 deliveries, his second fifty came off only 18, as he provided sheer entertainment to the crowd at the Chinnaswamy. Once de Villiers reached his hundred, he hit another couple of sixes, and then took a backseat and watched Kohli unfurl his game. De Villiers finished unbeaten with 129 runs to his name, and RCB posted an humongous total of 248, which was simply too good for the Lions batsmen, as they conceded defeat to the Royal Challengers Bangalore by 144 runs. This was arguably the best ever display of batting de Villiers and Kohli have produced together, eclipsing the exhibition they put on an the Wankhede a year prior to this.
3) 47*(17), Royal Challengers Bangalore v Deccan Chargers at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
Propelled by Shikhar Dhawan’s 73* and 47 and 45 from Australians Daniel Harris and Cameron White, the Deccan Chargers set the Royal Challengers Bangalore a steep target of a 182 to win and breathe life into their 2012 IPL campaign. Tillekaratne Dilshan and Chris Gayle got them off to a good start, as the duo put on 91 for the first wicket, surprisingly, Dilshan being the more aggressive off the two. But once Gayle was cleaned up by Anand Rajan, opening up a Pandora’s box for RCB, as a succession of wickets followed, including a well set Tillekaratne Dilshan on 71.
De Villiers, who walked out to bat at number 5 in this game, felt the pressure inflicted by a Chargers attack that did not quite possess quality bowlers other than Dale Steyn. Supported by a short onslaught by Mayank Agarwal, who fell in the last ball of the 17th after a 6 ball 18, RCB needed 39 off the last 3 overs.
For most of the game, the Chargers felt like they were well and truly in the game, and with half the Bangalore batting lineup back in the pavilion, and their best bowler bowling the 18th Over, they had enough reason to feel so. Enter Ab. The first ball of the 18th over was dug in short, and was subsequently dispatched into the stands. Steyn got it right next ball, firing in a yorker which was comfortably flicked past square leg for two.
The third was in the slot, and although de Villiers did not get it out of the middle of the bat, he still managed to pierce the gap between long on and deep mid wicket. 12 off the first 3, the fourth ball was probably one of the most iconic shots in all of the IPL, as de Villiers stepped back in his crease, gave himself some room, turned a 146 kmph yorker into a half volley and absolutely smashed it miles over the deep cover boundary. Steyn could do nothing else other than have a chuckle. The fifth delivery was ramped past long leg for another four, as Danny Morrison commented, “We are witnessing something very special!”
De Villiers retained strike by gliding the ball down to third man in the last ball of a Dale Steyn over which ultimately went for 23. Needing 16 runs off the last 2, de Villiers, who was already on song, smashed Anand Rajan for consecutive fours past cover and mid on, followed by a six over mid wicket and pretty much sealed the deal. A single later, Syed Mohammed hit the winning runs to officially register a win. De Villiers was deservedly announced Man of the Match.
2) 89*(41), Royal Challengers Bangalore v Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, IPL 2014
Ab de Villiers v Dale Steyn. Round 2. The name, crest and kit might have changed for the franchise from Hyderabad, but when it came to restricting de Villiers from chasing down the targets set by them, their fortune did not change.
After having lost the toss and put in to bat, Hyderabad posted a total of 155, thanks to a patient knock from David Warner, batting at number 4.
In reply, RCB got off to a horrible start as Parthiv Patel’s off stump was uprooted and Virat Kohli was caught behind in the second over, off the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Gayle, who opened with Patel, went on about his business, playing himself in first and then launching into Ishant Sharma for two consecutive sixes in the fifth over. Sadly for RCB, he had to depart halfway through the seventh over from Karn Sharma, caught by Daren Sammy at deep mid wicket. In walked Ab de Villiers to construct yet another run chase.
All Rilee Rossouw and then, Yuvraj Singh had to do was provide as much strike to de Villiers as possible. When Yuvraj departed, RCB still needed 61 off 33, but de Villiers already had 33 off 19 deliveries and was well and truly in the zone. Sixes flew over long off and long in the following over from Daren Sammy, as de Villiers brought up his fifty in 23 balls. Two comparatively economical overs followed from Dale Steyn and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, as RCB were left to chase down 28 off the last 2.
It was time for some deja Vu, as Steyn came on to bowl the 19th. The first ball, a slower ball, disappeared over deep square leg. The next went straight over the sightscreen.
Two singles in the next two deliveries, the fifth ball from Steyn was lofted by his countryman past the vacant long off region. De Villiers saved his best for the last ball of the over, as he jumped across and scooped Steyn into the third tier over the fine leg boundary. Two years ago, de Villiers took Steyn for 23 runs in the 19th Over, and all Steyn could do was chuckle at his countryman’s sheer brilliance. This time, de Villiers went one better, literally, taking 24 off the penultimate over, and all Steyn could do was applaud this time.
Irfan Pathan tried his best in the last over, but defending only 4 runs against a rampant de Villiers was never going to be easy, as ABD finished the game off with a boundary off the penultimate delivery. After the conclusion of the game, Steyn congratulated his then South Africa captain with a hug and a pat on the helmet.
1) 79*(47), Royal Challengers Bangalore v Gujarat Lions, Qualifier 1 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, IPL 2016
This has to be one of the best knocks in an IPL playoff game, given the situation and what was at stake. One of de Villiers’ most underrated knocks, he single handedly rescued RCB from the jaws of defeat and took them to the final.
After sending the Lions in to bat first, RCB reduced them to 9/3, with Iqbal Abdullah taking two out of them, and Raina falling to a brilliant piece of captaincy from Kohli, pulling a short ball from Watson straight to the man stationed at square leg to take that catch.
An 89 run partnership between Dinesh Karthik and Dwayne Smith steadied the ship, but once Smith got out in the 17th Over, Gujarat were in trouble. Late cameos from Eklavya Dwivedi and Dhaval Kulkarni helped them reach a total of 158.
Probably motivated by his effort with the bat, Dhaval Kulkarni then ran riot over the RCB top order, first cleaning up Kohli for a duck, and then accounting for Gayle and Rahul in consecutive deliveries of the fourth over. Two overs later, the fall of Sachin Baby’s wicket meant that RCB lost half their batting line up, and de Villiers was left to bat with the lower order.
Stuart Binny tried to give him company for a while, scoring 21 off 15 deliveries in the process, but was trapped leg before by Jadeja with two balls left to the halfway mark of the innings. Iqbal Abdullah, the man who did the initial damage with the ball in the first innings, joined AB de Villiers, who was 28 off 19 at that time.
The two began to formulate a partnership, as de Villiers started to fetch boundaries. It began drizzling with Royal Challengers needing 63 from 36 balls. De Villiers was at the non striker’s end.
Abdulla, on 8 off 14, was struggling to rotate the strike. He slashed at a gentle, back of a length ball from Dwayne Smith, and missed. Kohli, the RCB skipper, gestured angrily from the dugout, telling Abdulla to take a single and give de Villiers the strike. Abdulla steered the next ball to deep point. De Villiers, on 47, faced Smith now. He stepped down the pitch, which made Smith shorten his length, to no avail. A flat batted smack flew to the long on boundary to bring up his fifty. The next ball was fuller, and de Villiers could not get hold of it. The ball ballooned up after hitting the outside half of his bat.
Somehow, it managed to clear Aaron Finch at long off, much to the relief of every person attached to the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The two batsmen took a liking to Jakati in the following over, de Villiers first walking across his stumps and sweeping him over square leg for another maximum. Abdullah, in the penultimate ball of the same over, mis hit a full toss that somehow evaded the grasp of the fielder at mid wicket and tipped over the boundary line.
RCB required 33 off the last 4 overs. They only needed 2.2 more Overs to finish the job, as de Villiers first thumped Praveen over mid wicket for six, before unravelling a reverse sweep to hit a boundary in the same over. Iqbal Abdullah hit three consecutive boundaries off Dwayne Bravo in the following over, and then two balls later, he hit the winning runs. From 29/5, RCB managed to romp home and book a place into the final, largely thanks to this monumental and inspirational effort from Ab de Villiers.