AB de Villiers quietened all the speculation about his future going on in the background of the Proteas’ Test series against Australia as he played an innings of sheer class and obvious hunger at Kingsmead on Friday.
Unfortunately there was precious little else going on in support of De Villiers’ 71 not out as South Africa crashed to 162 all out to concede a 189-run first-innings lead in the first Test, left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc taking five for 34 and off-spinner Nathan Lyon three for 50 to thoroughly derail the Proteas’ innings.
“I’m not sure what I did differently to everyone else, I just felt really good in the build-up to the game and was confident from the word go and really keen for big runs. But unfortunately we just could not get any big partnerships going.
“Starc was swinging the ball one way so I felt I had him covered, the good delivery that moves off the deck you can’t do anything about, and we had Lyon under pressure at times but unfortunately we kept losing wickets. There were a couple of soft dismissals but some really good bowling too.
“I personally don’t see things as big or small series, but obviously this is a big series for the team because we want to beat Australia at home for the first time in a long while. So I’m taking it one game at a time and I’m loving the cricket and the environment at the moment,” De Villiers said on Friday evening.
While Mitchell Marsh was able to share stands of 60 for the sixth wicket with Tim Paine (25), 49 for the eighth wicket with Starc (35) and 41 for the ninth wicket with Lyon (12) as he made a fine 96, lifting Australia from their overnight 225 for five to 351 all out, De Villiers could barely find anyone to hang around with him.
Aiden Markram (32), Faf du Plessis (15) and Quinton de Kock (20) were the only other batsmen to reach double figures.
“Some of the guys looked good but just didn’t convert. There are small margins in Test cricket and we just fell short. I was trying to find a partnership but unfortunately it just didn’t happen. I felt that I should just bat for as long as I can and then I was going to be more aggressive but the last three wickets then fell in no time,” the stranded De Villiers said after his 43rd Test half-century.