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Six of AB de Villiers' best IPL innings

The superhero we deserve

Nagraj Gollapudi
Honestly, Abe! During his highest T20 score, in 2015 in Mumbai, de Villliers got 100 off his 133 runs in boundaries  •  PTI

Honestly, Abe! During his highest T20 score, in 2015 in Mumbai, de Villliers got 100 off his 133 runs in boundaries  •  PTI

"How does he do it?"
The question everyone asks every time AB de Villiers plays a magical T20 innings. Several of those memorable knocks have come in the IPL, where de Villiers is 22 short of compiling 5000 tournament runs. To mark the milestone, we look at some of his best IPL blitzes. (And before you complain about an omission - this is not a definitive list, and it is not ranked in any particular order.)
133 not out vs Mumbai Indians, Mumbai, 2015
The onslaught was so severe that Irfan Pathan wanted a petition signed by bowlers against de Villiers, who made his highest score in T20 cricket - and probably the best of his three centuries in the IPL. At the receiving end were Rohit Sharma's Mumbai Indians, whose various plans were flayed to different parts of the Wankhede Stadium. de Villiers joined Virat Kohli at the crease when RCB were 20 for 1 in the fourth over - which turned out to be a maiden, with Lasith Malinga bowling five dot balls to the new batter. From there, de Villiers and Kohli raised a 215-run partnership - a record for the second wicket until they broke it a year later. It was de Villiers' balance, Brendon McCullum said later, that stood out. He spared no bowler, including Jasprit Bumrah, who bowled five full tosses in the innings. Amazingly, though he hit only four sixes, his strike rate ended up being 225
105 not out vs Chennai Super Kings, Durban, 2009
This was his first century in the IPL. de Villiers walked in to bat second ball of the match and remained undefeated in an innings that delighted even the purists. It was an innings of two halves. He was happy to rotate strike for the first 50 runs. But once he got a reprieve when Albie Morkel dropped a sitter at long-on, it triggered a rampage, during which he went from 79 to 100 in the space of five balls from Andrew Flintoff, hitting two slog-sweeps, a cover drive and a front-pull to the boundary.
89 not out vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Bengaluru, 2014
RCB needed 28 runs from the final two overs, with de Villiers the last recognised batter. Dale Steyn, whose first three overs had gone for 16 runs, came on to bowl the 19th over. If Steyn thought he had done well to erase the memory of the 23 runs de Villiers had taken off him in a single over at the same ground two years ago, he was in for a setback. de Villiers started with a pulled six to square leg, hit another into the sightscreen, and finished by jumping outside off to scoop the final ball over fine leg, bringing the target down to four from the final over. That 24-run over earned him raucous applause from the crowd, and later, a hug from Steyn. Among his eight sixes was a straight one to long-on, deposited into a steel container next to the Sunrisers' dugout - fitting, on a day when he literally binned the opposition.
79 not out vs Gujarat Lions, Qualifier, Bengaluru, 2016
Chasing 159 to reach the final, RCB were 29 for 5 inside the first six overs and 70 for 6 at the halfway stage, with de Villiers left to shepherd the tail through the rest of innings. He was cautious to begin with, but once he had hit the first boundary, the dam broke, and he ended up scoring 50 of his 79 runs in boundaries. The best stroke came when RCB needed 26 from 20 balls and de Villiers had just slogged Praveen Kumar for a six. He now nonchalantly reverse-swept the bowler from leg stump, beating short third man for an easy four. He finished the job with ten balls to spare and said at the press conference: "I honestly don't give a rat's… damn about any stat. I don't care about hundreds, fifties, averages. Tonight was special for me."
90 not out vs Delhi Daredevils, Bengaluru, 2018
When de Villiers walked in to bat in the fifth over, against left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, the Daredevils captain, Gautam Gambhir, placed himself as one of the two slips. The aggressive move was justified because Nadeem had conceded only 22 runs off 23 deliveries to de Villiers, with one four, in the IPL previously. Now, though, in the first seven deliveries he faced, de Villiers picked five boundaries off Nadeem. It was conscious decision to counterattack, de Villiers said after the match, because he was "feeling threatened" by Nadeem. His 24-ball half-century, then the third fastest in the IPL, helped RCB seal the win with 12 balls to spare. According to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats index, the innings was worth as much as a 39-ball 130.
73 not out vs Kolkata Knight Riders, Sharjah, 2020
That de Villiers bats on a different plane is not a myth - this innings was evidence of it. On a pitch that was slow and gripping, where even Kohli struggled for fluency, de Villiers muscled sub-120kph offcutters out of the small ground with ridiculous ease. He recognised early on that he needed the ball to come into his "box", an area he has mentally mapped around him on the pitch where he can play the ball under his eyes. If the ball lands there, regardless of pace or length, he is poised to attack. It was not just the inexperienced pair of Prasidh Krishna and Kamlesh Nagarkoti who were given the stick, Pat Cummins and Andre Russell came in for punishment too. de Villiers said he had felt a special "energy" and "a bit of light out of my eye" when he stepped off the bus that day. Kohli described the innings as "superhuman".

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo