South Africa v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Centurion, 2nd day December 16, 2011

I still back the fielder - de Villiers

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AB de Villiers fell one short of his 13th Test century but still believes South Africa already have enough runs to put the match beyond Sri Lanka. On a pitch that has offered something to the bowlers throughout, South Africa currently lead by 209 runs with a wicket in hand.

de Villiers was dismissed for 99 after lashing at a wide ball and being caught at point by Sri Lanka's substitute fielder Dimuth Karunaratne. He had a brief consultation with the umpire on the field and then walked off. Replays showed that there may have been some doubt about whether the ball had carried, but de Villiers chose not to review the decision.

"I was hoping that the umpires would go upstairs," he said. "But, like Jacques Kallis always does, I wanted to ask the fielder. Rod [Tucker] asked me if I wanted to go upstairs and I said, 'No, let's ask the fielder.' We did ask him and he said he caught it. I haven't seen the highlights or the replay but it's history now. I still back the fielder, if he said he caught it, that's it."

Sri Lanka's batting coach Marvan Atapattu was less philosophical about de Villiers' decision. "That's a nice gesture but I'm not quite sure. I asked the fielder about it and he said he was pretty sure it was a clean catch. I myself, looking from inside wasn't very sure whether he caught it," Atapattu said, confessing that we would probably have had it reviewed. "After all, he was on 99. Personally, I wouldn't have [relied on the fielder], to be very honest."

The one run that separates de Villiers from a milestone may not make too much difference, because the South African No.4 believes his team has scored enough runs to only bat once. Their lead grew steadily as the day wore on and de Villiers said the team is hoping to extend it even further tomorrow morning. "We don't want to go and bat again, which shouldn't happen if we bowl really well," he said. "I would like us to get a big lead. There's more than enough time left in the game."

"These are the most experienced six batsmen that we have to represent Sri Lanka. It's their responsibility to put runs on the board over and over again, for as long as they play for Sri Lanka."
Marvan Atapattu

South Africa's last wicket pair of Mark Boucher and Imran Tahir has already put on 39 runs, with Tahir striking some massive blows at the end of the day. "Immi (Tahir) surprised all of us," de Villiers admitted. "We all know he is an attacking player but to actually hit the ball in the middle of the bat was quite surprising."

He had more serious words for Boucher's performance, which came with the wicketkeeper under pressure to justify prolonging his career. "He has been under a bit of pressure and to come through like that on a difficult wicket in a very difficult situation and to wag with the tail was unbelievable."

Boucher started slowly but combined with de Villiers for a seventh-wicket stand of 33 and Vernon Philander for 41 for the eighth-wicket, something that de Villiers says was the hallmark of South Africa's innings. "The highlight for me was the partnerships," he said. "It's easy for me to say I played a big knock and had a big influence on the game, which I did, but other boys also did pretty well."

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, failed to build on the two half-century partnerships they had and Atapattu wants to see a more convincing showing by them in the second innings. "There is no rocket science in batting on wickets like this," he said. "It's just that we didn't do it consistently. We need to be positive. The wicket is not the best batting wicket that you get. I would have thought that it will get better as the game progresses but I didn't see anything significantly better than yesterday, so there can't be a drastic change tomorrow."

de Villiers agreed that it would remain tricky for the batsmen and said South Africa's bowlers will again relish the prospect of producing on a seamer-friendly surface. "I can't wait to see our bowlers on this wicket. If Angelo Matthews can get it to bounce and hit my gloves, I can wait to see Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander on this track," he said. "If we do the basics well, there's more than enough to work with."

Despite the assistance of the pitch, de Villiers said South Africa will be wary of players like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene who "can score double-hundreds". And Atapattu is looking forward to those very men to step up after a year of disappointments in the Test arena.

"There have been more than a couple of batting failures in the last six months, but there are no excuses," he said. "These are the most experienced six batsmen that we have to represent Sri Lanka in Test match cricket, they have put runs on the board before and it's their responsibility to put runs on the board over and over again, for as long as they play for Sri Lanka."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY EL_Prasho on | December 17, 2011, 11:01 GMT

    Well played, sir. A true sportsman in every sense of the word.

  • POSTED BY dipakvaio on | December 17, 2011, 10:57 GMT

    well, de villiers played with great sportsman spirit there. batting on 99, he did such a gesture. he's already one of my favorites and that's just added my respect for him.

  • POSTED BY dms1972 on | December 17, 2011, 10:57 GMT

    @ Julian Reifer, what about Adam Gilchrist? Do you think he might have walked? I believe he would have and last I checked, he's an Australian.

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 9:36 GMT

    UDRS is never clear about the result. At least BCCI did the right thing by opposing it. Nasser Hussain and others might have got the answer. Hot spot, is becoming like a blot spot for the game.

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 9:16 GMT

    I must congratulate and praise de Villiers no Aussie or Englishman would have walked there. That is how cricket should be played.

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 8:47 GMT

    De Villiers showed great sportsmanship in taking the word of the fielder. However one wonders whether the fielder was absolutely sure he caught it cleanly or just assumed he did so.

  • POSTED BY Tumo on | December 17, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    Deepak mate, if you actually read the article, you would see that the Umpires asked him if he wanted to go upstairs, which is why he had the consultation with the Umpires. Please actually read the whole article...

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 8:01 GMT

    @Deepak :- hey i think you din't watch the match last night.. If abd has gone for review for that catch, then there is a 95% chance the decision could have been reversed. Then about ABD's sportsmanship if the same thing have done by any of Indian batsmen then you guys will make it as something big. try to appreciate other persons character and efforts..

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 7:28 GMT

    @Deepak sour grapes ..

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    excellent....Hats off....Now I really hope the fielders wont take advantage of these situations

  • POSTED BY EL_Prasho on | December 17, 2011, 11:01 GMT

    Well played, sir. A true sportsman in every sense of the word.

  • POSTED BY dipakvaio on | December 17, 2011, 10:57 GMT

    well, de villiers played with great sportsman spirit there. batting on 99, he did such a gesture. he's already one of my favorites and that's just added my respect for him.

  • POSTED BY dms1972 on | December 17, 2011, 10:57 GMT

    @ Julian Reifer, what about Adam Gilchrist? Do you think he might have walked? I believe he would have and last I checked, he's an Australian.

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 9:36 GMT

    UDRS is never clear about the result. At least BCCI did the right thing by opposing it. Nasser Hussain and others might have got the answer. Hot spot, is becoming like a blot spot for the game.

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 9:16 GMT

    I must congratulate and praise de Villiers no Aussie or Englishman would have walked there. That is how cricket should be played.

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 8:47 GMT

    De Villiers showed great sportsmanship in taking the word of the fielder. However one wonders whether the fielder was absolutely sure he caught it cleanly or just assumed he did so.

  • POSTED BY Tumo on | December 17, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    Deepak mate, if you actually read the article, you would see that the Umpires asked him if he wanted to go upstairs, which is why he had the consultation with the Umpires. Please actually read the whole article...

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 8:01 GMT

    @Deepak :- hey i think you din't watch the match last night.. If abd has gone for review for that catch, then there is a 95% chance the decision could have been reversed. Then about ABD's sportsmanship if the same thing have done by any of Indian batsmen then you guys will make it as something big. try to appreciate other persons character and efforts..

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 7:28 GMT

    @Deepak sour grapes ..

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    excellent....Hats off....Now I really hope the fielders wont take advantage of these situations

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 6:00 GMT

    this match will end today. result if SL lost by 75 runs and an innings. next two maches will be same. I am sri lankan, but see the reality.

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 5:05 GMT

    with people like AB around...cricket will still remain a gentleman's game...hats off to AB..what a gesture..that to when he was on 99....

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 4:52 GMT

    no doubt about the catch...cleanly taken..replays looked out anyway

  • POSTED BY Balumekka on | December 17, 2011, 4:11 GMT

    Great sportsmanship AB!!!! Hats off !!!!!

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 3:46 GMT

    @Robi, actually Clarke is a gentleman of the game. After his 151 was found to be in a losing cause, he says he doesn't rate his innings any more because it didn't help the team. I don't see too many people ( de Villiers is the exception, a fantastic bloke) that would do that in international cricket...

  • POSTED BY on | December 17, 2011, 3:40 GMT

    Great Sportsmanship........ AB has shown that Test Cricket is indeed gentleman's game....... Hats Off AB.....

  • POSTED BY Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on | December 17, 2011, 2:32 GMT

    Question: If he trusted the fielder, why did he go to the umpire at all? Please don't drag that great man Kallis into this. I don't know when did that great man consult the umpire along with the fielder! You just wanted to save a review. Say that. Simple!

  • POSTED BY SLfan on | December 17, 2011, 1:59 GMT

    Wow...Although it's rare, not reviewing a decision can be done by any cricketer. But when he was in 99...That can be only done by a great person !....AB, I think your international fan base had increased a lot because of that incident...Hats off to the gentleman.

  • POSTED BY johnathonjosephs on | December 17, 2011, 1:22 GMT

    Ehh... you might call it sportmanship or whatever, but in the end it was not a smart move by De Villiers (and Kallis who does it regularly for all that). By asking a fielder if he legitly caught the ball, there will be no time in a million years where the fielder goes "nah, mate, was just playing with you". Especially when we have this technology to analyze everything, why walk? Its like the entire team goes up for a LBW shout and the batsman think it was close too, so he goes to the bowler and asks if he thought it was out and walks. Bit stupid if you ask me, though AB was out (was close decision, but fielder has fingers under the ball and in the end it would have went Lanka's way)

  • POSTED BY JustOUT on | December 17, 2011, 1:13 GMT

    @3liteindia- I agree with ur comments except "After all, he is not a Virender Sehwag to score runs freely on any pitch.". I dont see him scoring a match winning innings in SA & ENG till now. Im not against Sehwag. Correct ur words mate.

  • POSTED BY MDCP on | December 17, 2011, 0:56 GMT

    hats off to you AB!!! Great sportsmanship......

  • POSTED BY Deepak on | December 17, 2011, 0:19 GMT

    Playing irresponsible shots like the one Dilshan did in the first inning (and also Matthews) and then saying that's their aggressive style of cricket, is absolute nonsense. If Sehwag comes out and says that, it makes sense (he's got the record to back it up; I am not saying that just because I'm from India). If De Villiers really means what he's saying (that he trusted the fielder and didn't even watch the replays), that's a breath of fresh air. However, I find it hard to believe. If he trusted the fielder so much, why did he first talk to the ump ? I think he knew it was clean, so he didn't want to waste a referral.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 23:40 GMT

    great sportmanship by AB de Villiers.. i think AB is now very matured cricketer..hatsoff to AB

  • POSTED BY Sinhabahu on | December 16, 2011, 23:12 GMT

    Superb sportsmanship by AB and his team. The South Africans have really outdone themselves as hosts, first by expressing support to our unpaid players and now with this gracious gesture on a doubtful catch.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 23:08 GMT

    Absolutely Brilliant (AB) !! with the skills and the character too

  • POSTED BY Vijay_P_S on | December 16, 2011, 22:42 GMT

    Nice to see that there are still players with good values.

  • POSTED BY playitstraight on | December 16, 2011, 22:14 GMT

    SL must bat well in order to draw/win this test. With a 209 deficit already, they have to score at least 400 odd if they want to actually win this test. Saying this, the first man who should realize the situation they are in is Tillakaratne Dilshan. If he is going to play SL's "brand of cricket" like everyone calls it, then they will lose. Hopefully he does the wise thing by playing like a Test batsman. After all, he is not a Virender Sehwag to score runs freely on any pitch.

  • POSTED BY yorkslanka on | December 16, 2011, 22:05 GMT

    Great sportsmanship from AB. Absolute get and a superb player.deserved a ton but doesn't make the innings any less great from AB.there are few gentlemen left In world cricket and that is a sad thing-thats what makes us different from footballers. SA in winning position now and philander looking very good.hopefully we will have got back some respect from other countries with this performance so far..

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 21:39 GMT

    Well done AB. Long live cricket....

  • POSTED BY Stark62 on | December 16, 2011, 21:28 GMT

    Brilliant guy, he deserves to lead the South African team and his got the makings of a legend!

  • POSTED BY Number1CricketFan on | December 16, 2011, 21:21 GMT

    Mahela and Sangakkara HAVE to score runs this innings. They need to step up and now is the time. another 624 run partnership would be nice.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 21:12 GMT

    Very matured of AB...unlike Clarke, Ponting and Co....take a bow.

  • POSTED BY BellCurve on | December 16, 2011, 20:58 GMT

    Only Tendulkar fans worry about 100s. It's by and large a meaningless milestone.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 20:36 GMT

    Great Player... puts his country first without bothering abt his personal milestone..

  • POSTED BY paultjohn on | December 16, 2011, 20:16 GMT

    Cannot believe that cricket is still a gentlemen's game!!!. Hats off to AB de Villiers. It was a great batting display on a difficult pitch by AB. Sad to see he fell short a run from a well deserved century. (not sure;replays revealed, it was not a 100% clean catch) . AB showed great sportsman spirit by trusting the word of the fielder.long live the gentleman's game...we need more sportsmen like AB

  • POSTED BY SLMaster on | December 16, 2011, 19:36 GMT

    Now why would Atapattu comment like this ... and bring down confidence of a younger player: if he had it grasp it cleanly. Atapattu should concertrate in coaching the bastmen since they are failing miserably since the time he came into the squad. Atapattu similarly commented about Dinesh Chandimal few months ago saying that his technique isn't correct...

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 19:33 GMT

    really awesum sportmanship from DeVillers........love thez south africans even though im SL

  • POSTED BY Samu on | December 16, 2011, 19:01 GMT

    "The one run that separates de Villiers from a milestone may not make too much difference, because the South African No. 4 already believes his team have scored enough runs to only bat once."

    ABD as No.4 South African batsmen? since when???

  • POSTED BY alltimegreat on | December 16, 2011, 18:49 GMT

    Quite an intriguing day of Test match..loved it

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    Already loved and respected Kallis for this characteristic. AB is really a man to be followed.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    Boucher is back :). I am sure he have 1 more year of cricket ahead of him.

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  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    Boucher is back :). I am sure he have 1 more year of cricket ahead of him.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    Already loved and respected Kallis for this characteristic. AB is really a man to be followed.

  • POSTED BY alltimegreat on | December 16, 2011, 18:49 GMT

    Quite an intriguing day of Test match..loved it

  • POSTED BY Samu on | December 16, 2011, 19:01 GMT

    "The one run that separates de Villiers from a milestone may not make too much difference, because the South African No. 4 already believes his team have scored enough runs to only bat once."

    ABD as No.4 South African batsmen? since when???

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 19:33 GMT

    really awesum sportmanship from DeVillers........love thez south africans even though im SL

  • POSTED BY SLMaster on | December 16, 2011, 19:36 GMT

    Now why would Atapattu comment like this ... and bring down confidence of a younger player: if he had it grasp it cleanly. Atapattu should concertrate in coaching the bastmen since they are failing miserably since the time he came into the squad. Atapattu similarly commented about Dinesh Chandimal few months ago saying that his technique isn't correct...

  • POSTED BY paultjohn on | December 16, 2011, 20:16 GMT

    Cannot believe that cricket is still a gentlemen's game!!!. Hats off to AB de Villiers. It was a great batting display on a difficult pitch by AB. Sad to see he fell short a run from a well deserved century. (not sure;replays revealed, it was not a 100% clean catch) . AB showed great sportsman spirit by trusting the word of the fielder.long live the gentleman's game...we need more sportsmen like AB

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 20:36 GMT

    Great Player... puts his country first without bothering abt his personal milestone..

  • POSTED BY BellCurve on | December 16, 2011, 20:58 GMT

    Only Tendulkar fans worry about 100s. It's by and large a meaningless milestone.

  • POSTED BY on | December 16, 2011, 21:12 GMT

    Very matured of AB...unlike Clarke, Ponting and Co....take a bow.