De Villiers key to SA hopes

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

JASON Roy? Reece Topley? David Willey? Who are these people and why are they in England’s one-day squad for the series against SA that starts in Bloemfontein on Wednesday?

Willey, at least, will ring bells as the son of Peter, he of “the bowler’s Holding the batsman’s Willey” apocryphal infamy.

But, for all that, batsman Roy, left-arm medium pacer Topley and allrounder Willey hold 30 ODI caps between them and are part of England’s re-invention of themselves in the format in the wake of their shambolic first-round exit from last year’s World Cup.

If South Africans haven’t heard of them it could be because the last time SA played England over 50 overs was in the Champions Trophy semi-final at the Oval in June 2013.

SA crashed to 80/8 on their way to being dismissed for 175, and England won by seven wickets inside 38 overs.

You need to go back even further than that to find the last time SA and England met in an ODI in Bloemfontein – 11 years and a day back.

“I remember that I think I played in a game we tied here in 2005, or something like that,” AB de Villiers said on Tuesday.

England made 270/5 and SA reached the last over of their reply needing eight to win. Instead, they lost three wicket to Kabir Ali and scored only seven to settle on 270/8.

De Villiers is the only man in either dressingroom on Wednesday who played in that game.

So SA won’t have mental scarring to navigate as they try to beat England in an ODI in Bloem for the first time. Currently, their record reads played three, lost two, tied one.

“It’s the last thing on my mind,” De Villiers said when he was asked about setting the record straight.

“We haven’t played them for a while but we have enough footage of their players to know what to expect, and I’m sure they have enough footage of our players to know what to expect. There won’t be any surprises.

“They’ve got a few good players in their side. We’ve got three players who scored a hundred in our last ODI as well, so they’ve got a bit of work to do as well.”

Quinton de Kock, Du Plessis and De Villiers himself took SA to a total of 438/4 against India in the series decider in Mumbai in October.

Then Kagiso Rabada took 4/41 as the home side spiralled to defeat by 214 runs, whereupon India team director Ravi Shastri asked the groundsman how’s your father and SA did not see another decent pitch for the rest of their tour.

A lot has changed even since then, but De Villiers is still De Villiers.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I could scored a hundred in 31 balls (as he did against West Indies at the Wanderers last January), or even close to 50,” he said. “I surprise myself every time I do that.

“I keep believing I can do stuff like that but the focus is always on winning games for the team. That’s probably my biggest strength – I focus so much on winning the game that before I realise it I’ve scored a hundred off close to 30 balls.

“Things like that are always possible when you aim bigger and have a bigger cause.”

De Villiers has scored 23 ODI centuries, just two of them at slower than a run-a-ball. England, consider yourselves warned.

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