TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
LATE on Sunday night alone in his Dhaka hotel room, just before he put aside the plots and plans for the next step of SA’s tour of Bangladesh and turned off the light, Russell Domingo might have allowed himself a quiet smile.
If he didn’t, he should have: all that stuff and nonsense from the ranks of paid punditry leaning hard on the international playing experience they had and Domingo did not to say – loudly and repeatedly – that AB de Villiers bats too low in the order were properly shut up.
Expectation was indeed high when De Villiers opened the batting in Sunday’s first T20. Finally, here was his chance to show what he could do with all 20 overs at his disposal. Here was Domingo’s comeuppance for daring to growl that “guys who have been in this situation are throwing darts” in April last year, when the experts pinned SA’s failure to win the World T20 on De Villiers batting at No. 4 and 5.
That the stats proved De Villiers was indeed more effective when he came to the crease after a platform had been set was drowned out by the capped crusaders’ cacophony for him to take guard earlier.
The record, it seemed, was about to be set straight. Alas, for some, it was not. Instead, the world’s most innovative, most exciting, most devastating (ag, simply the best) batsman took five balls to get off the mark and slapped the sixth chest high into the covers, where he was smartly caught by Mashrafe Mortaza. Gone. For two.
Despite De Villiers’ dud SA won by 52 runs. Their total of 148/4 was their most modest in the three T20s they have played against Bangladesh, but the bowlers won the match handsomely by dismissing their opponents for 96 – the Tigers’ lowest score in a completed innings in their 16 home games in this format.
“We’ve got world class players like AB but we don’t rely on him,” Faf du Plessis said, and he wasn’t trying to be nasty. Instead, he had earned the right to say his bit by ignoring a broken finger to score a gritty 79 not out that, on a pitch made for beach volleyball more than it was for batting, was worth twice as much.
“He played an immaculate innings; he knuckled down and did the job,” Rilee Rossouw, who shared the biggest stand of the match, an unbroken 58, with Du Plessis, said of his captain.
Of course, any satisfaction Domingo might feel at having been proved correct will disappear if De Villiers delivers one of his trademark whirlwind innings from the top of the order in the last match of the series at the same venue on Tuesday.
But that will probably mean another SA victory is in the bag, and with it more reasons for Domingo to be cheerful.
Not that he needs them what with Du Plessis’ quality batting and Kagiso Rabada, David Wiese and JP Duminy taking two wickets each.
Rabada’s calm was unshaken despite serial assaults on his bowling, while the only performance better than Wiese’s 2/12 off three overs was JP Duminy’s 2/11 off four.
“The old man bowled well today,” almost 31-year-old Du Plessis said about 31-year-old Duminy.
And all that against a team who went into Sunday’s match still smiling from one-day series wins over Pakistan and India.
Now, it’s Domingo’s turn.