South Africa v Sri Lanka, Champions Trophy, Group B, The Oval June 3, 2017

South Africa's magic fielding trifecta

Three moments of brilliance in the field, two by the most likely candidate and a third by one of the least likely, boosted South Africa toward an opening win at the Champions Trophy

AB de Villiers made up for a single-digit score with two special pieces of fielding © Getty Images/ICC

South Africa seemed slightly out of sorts in the field in the recently completed England series and put down as many as five catches in the first of the three matches, but they redeemed themselves with a trio of match-changing moments in their Champions Trophy opener against Sri Lanka. The man responsible for two of them was captain AB de Villiers, who was particularly pleased with the improvement in athleticism.

"Those moments happen when you build a bit of pressure on the opposition, when you create a bit of pressure through dot balls and through good bowling," de Villiers said. "That's when the little moments started happening. It's always important to take those moments, those little opportunities that come your way, which we did. So I was very happy with the way we fielded. We worked really hard at that part of our game, and very happy with the way it went today."

ESPNcricinfo relives the three moments of magic in the field:

The one-handed snatch

Faf du Plessis has made a habit of stealing balls out of the sky but AB de Villiers showed he has not forgotten the art of the stunner when he plucked a one-handed catch to dismiss Kusal Mendis. De Villiers had positioned himself at short mid-on in line with the standing umpire, a cunning spot for Mendis' flick, which initially seemed to be going over de Villiers' head as he slightly mistimed his jump, having leapt up fractionally early, but he grabbed the ball just as it started to dip behind him.

What they said:

"The old man can still move," du Plessis joked.

"I don't know what I was thinking. It happens quickly those things, I'm just happy it stuck," de Villiers said.

The pick-up-and-throw

Not content with one game-changing moment in the field, de Villiers pulled off another exquisite one to remove Dinesh Chandimal, who hoped for a single after striking an Imran Tahir delivery firmly to extra cover. De Villiers pulled off a sliding stop to cut the ball off, though he didn't field it cleanly in his initial effort and the ball ricocheted several yards towards mid-off. Chandimal thought he saw an opening for a single and took off after the misfield but de Villiers scampered to track the ball down, then picked up and flicked at the stumps, all in one motion while airborne. His direct hit found Chandimal inches short of his ground at the non-striker's end.

What they said:

"There was one [run] there. AB de Villiers was like a Superman and straight away, he hit the wickets. I didn't realise it but credit goes to him," Chandimal said.

The unlikely fielder

Having seen a runout off his own bowling, Tahir effected one of his own to top off one of his best efforts in the field in which he finished with 4 for 27. Tahir already had three to his name when Suranga Lakmal hit a length ball from Chris Morris to mid-on. Lakmal thought a run was on and had started to go but Kusal Mendis stayed put at the non-striker's end as he saw Tahir moving in. Lakmal was about a third of the way down the pitch before turning around, giving Tahir just enough time to collect, aim at all three stumps and fire directly at the striker's end.

What they said:

"It always shows me where the player is at when he shows that kind of dedication and commitment in the field," de Villiers said of Tahir's effort.

"It was very cool. We work really hard as a group but I do a little bit extra because I have to, because there are so many good fielders in the team," Tahir said. "So I need to make my name somehow. I was quite pleased that I got a runout in my pocket."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • letsgoproteas on June 5, 2017, 10:26 GMT

    Well done boys! Bring it home.

  • cricfan2728009984 on June 5, 2017, 8:47 GMT

    It's a good sign that SA are fielding on that level again. They set the bench mark 20 years ago and slipped back at times under Smith. Bodes well for this weekend's game against India when small margins will make big differences. Well son e AB

  • Fogu on June 5, 2017, 8:09 GMT

    It is amazing that AB fields so well considering he was a keeper for so long and used to gloves.

  • Saravanan Pandian on June 5, 2017, 6:59 GMT

    jonty then ABD now.. the best fielders

  • Brokensaint on June 4, 2017, 19:02 GMT

    de villiers field placings was absolutely amazing. spot on from ball 1. he created pressure through attacking.

  • veearsena on June 4, 2017, 2:30 GMT

    great fielding by SA team and especially ABD is more active as usual. Very narrow chances, but they got results because of his quick moving and commitment in the field. This is motivation for the team and Tahir to execute accurately.

  • No featured comments at the moment.