South Africa v England, 1st ODI, Johannesburg

The mystery of the missing man

The Wisden Verdict by Steven Lynch

January 30, 2005

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Where was he? AB de Villiers wasn't selected for the first one-dayer © Getty Images
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The bad weather which followed the Tests around doesn't seem to have left South Africa along with the Barmy Army. England were well on the way to a convincing victory at Johannesburg when there was a repeat of the storms that blighted the early part of the Centurion Test.

With Kevin Pietersen managing to block out the catcalls of the crowd and the brickbats of the fielders, the second part of England's innings should have been a walk in the Wanderers. We'll never know, but it did seem that the onfield storm had been ridden. Duckworth and Lewis were also on England's side, which was what mattered once the outfield was turned into a paddling pool.

When South Africa dipped to 90 for 7 earlier, though, Duckworth and Lewis were the last names on most people's minds. If Michael Vaughan had gone for the jugular, and brought back his strike bowlers rather than filling in with 15 overs from Paul Collingwood and Marcus Trescothick, then Shaun Pollock and Nicky Boje might never have made a game of it with their eighth-wicket rescue act of 58.

But the real mystery happened even before the first stumps were rattled. South Africa's selectors left out AB de Villiers, the one shining discovery of the recent Test series - and a man in ripping form after making 92 and 109 in the final Test last week. Instead Adam Bacher came back, for the first time in half a decade, and looked out of his depth in scoring 4 from 18 balls. With the ball doing a bit on a helpful pitch - the top-notch trio of Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis went cheaply too - it's fair to say that de Villiers might have struggled as well. But barring accidents he will be a key member of South Africa's team at the next World Cup in 2007. Barring accidents, Bacher won't be.

It took the South African selectors more than half the Test series to get their side right. England will be highly delighted if it takes them as long to work out what their best one-day line-up is as well.

Steven Lynch is the editor of Cricinfo.

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Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.
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