South African cricket (and SA in general) is still reeling from AB de Villiers’ sudden retirement.
At least we still have a lot of moments to savour from a magnificent, dazzling career.
But one game stands out … the day when AB ‘broke’ cricket with an unreal hundred.
The prettiest – and most brutal – in pink
On January 18, 2015, De Villiers blazed the fastest century in ODI history, needing just 31 balls to rip up the record books and destroy the West Indies.
He chose the grandest stage for his staggering exhibition, Pink Day at a packed Wanderers, and went on to score an incredible 149 off 44 balls.
The game of cricket changed that day as De Villiers unfurled the sort of shots that were unthinkable only a few years earlier.
Single-handedly beating West Indies in the World Cup
De Villiers blasted 162 not out off just 66 balls – the fastest ODI 150 ever – against the West Indians at the Sydney Cricket Ground on February 27, 2015, lashing 17 fours and eight sixes on what was considered a slowish pitch, difficult to score on by the other batsmen.
The entire West Indies team couldn’t even make that, being bowled out for just 151.
Like all other World Cups, it would end badly nearly a month later for South Africa, but De Villiers had ensured his name was written in World Cup folklore.
Birth of a Test great
There was no doubting De Villiers’ talent, but he had yet to become one of the great matchwinning Test batsmen when South Africa toured England in 2008.
That changed in the second Test at Leeds when De Villiers held fast for eight-and-a-half-hours in scoring an epic 174 off 381 balls.
He shared a partnership of 212 for the fifth wicket with Ashwell Prince, giving the Proteas a massive first-innings lead of 319.
They won by 10 wickets to claim a lead in the series they never surrendered.
Chasing down the unimaginable
The hallmark of a great batsman is that he exceeds expectations and, even though he had already achieved so much in the preceding year, De Villiers did that in memorable fashion on December 21, 2008 in Perth when his unbeaten 106 carried South Africa to a record total of 414 to beat Australia by six wickets.
Hope had turned into belief for the Proteas and they defied the odds by winning a series in Australia for the first time.
Beating Australia (again) … but not retirement
The St George’s Park pitch for the second Test against Australia earlier this year had enough nip, turn and reverse-swing to deter every other batsman, save for De Villiers, who stroked a masterful 126 not out off just 146 deliveries.
With the tourists having won the first Test convincingly, it was the sort of epic performance needed to take the wind out of their sails.
Sadly, it is not enough to keep the genius De Villiers in the international game, and it will go down in the record books as his last Test century.
Fittingly, it was one of his greatest and he certainly leaves with his stellar reputation intact.