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ESPNcricinfo Awards 2015 ODI batting winner: AB de Villiers' fifty-nine minutes of mayhem

When AB de Villiers shattered ODI batting records in one innings at the Wanderers

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
De Villiers' knock wasn't just about brute force. There were deft touches as well  •  Gallo Images

De Villiers' knock wasn't just about brute force. There were deft touches as well  •  Gallo Images

Photography has the golden hour, that time when the newly born or slowly setting sunlight bathes the sky in a soft hue. Television news has its prime time hour when the day's biggest stories are dissected and analysed. After 2015, the Wanderers has its own witching hour, even though it was only 59 minutes long.
In that time, AB de Villiers rewrote record books with a 16-ball fifty, a 31-ball century, the joint-highest number of sixes in an ODI innings and a third of the total of South Africa's highest ODI score. He plundered 149 runs off 44 balls to redefine the limits of what is possible in a 50-over game and enhance his reputation as the best ODI batsman of his time.
On a Wanderers surface ripe with runs and against a West Indian attack that lacked control, South Africa's batsmen were benefitting long before de Villiers got to the crease in the 39th over. Rilee Rossouw, opening in place of the injured Quinton de Kock, notched up a first international hundred and Hashim Amla had reached his 18th in ODIs to put South Africa on 247 without loss.
With a platform that size, de Villiers was promoted to No. 3 and he was in the mood to make the most of it. He slapped the first ball he faced, a slower one from Jerome Taylor, through mid-on to signal his intent and then, he did not stop.
He needed no time to get his eye in because his feet were doing most of the work. He stepped towards the leg side to send an Andre Russell ball through mid-off and then outside his off stump to hoick one over midwicket, cleared the front leg to puncture mid-off and got down on one knee to scoop over backward square. He took 21 runs off the over to distort Russell's figures, which were still somewhat respectable before that, but West Indies would have believed the damage could be limited.
A relatively quiet over followed, in which de Villiers only breached the boundary once off Jerome Taylor before the visitors' young captain, Jason Holder, decided to bring himself on. He put himself in the firing line and de Villiers showed no mercy.
Holder searched for the yorker and each time he missed, de Villiers pounced. He brought up his fifty with a clean strike down the ground off the fourth ball he faced from Holder. At the start of that over, de Villiers had 38; by the end, he had amassed 61. In total, de Villiers took 45 runs off the nine balls he faced from Holder including six sixes. One of those brought up his fifty, another his hundred and a third gave de Villiers the record for the most sixes by a South African in an ODI innings.
All of de Villiers' shots were spiced with the innovation that has made him an extraordinary player. When he wasn't hitting the ball hard, which was a lot of the time, he was steering it deftly. There was a reverse paddle off Taylor that went past short third man and a gentle pick off Russell to send the ball sailing over backward square leg.
At the other end, Amla seemed to be doing little more than watching. He contributed just 39 runs in the 192-run stand and allowed de Villiers to dominate. The South African captain was on track to score the fastest 150 but sent the third-last ball of the innings straight to deep cover but by then, he had done more than enough. South Africa scored 163 runs in the last ten overs and 121 of them belonged to de Villiers.
The Johannesburg faithful turned the Bullring into a Colosseum of noise as they chanted de Villiers' name. "AB, AB," they cried, summoning memories of nine years before when it was Herschelle Gibbs they were cheering on as South Africa hunted down 435 against Australia in 2006. It's no surprise that this total, 439, was posted on the same pitch.
But that is where the similarities with that match ended. Although Chris Gayle was in the West Indies XI, he was dismissed early and could not inspire a similar chase.
South Africa won the game by 148 runs to take a 2-0 lead in the series, which they sealed in the next match. Although the quality of the opposition came into question, with the World Cup less than a month away, South Africa showed their potential. They went on to score two totals over 400 at the tournament. The champions, Australia, reached that mark once.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent