An innings to cheer from a worthy opponent

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A B de Villiers 22nd Test century at the weekend was a popular milestone among even the Aussies supporters dismayed at the over-the-top on field behavior of their team in Kingsmead. KEN PIESSE reports:

CALL ME unpatriotic or even un-Australian, but I for one loved A B de Villiers’ match-swinging century at Port Elizabeth at the weekend. It’s not just because I am leading an Australian Cricket Society tour group to South Africa from Cape Town next week for what was always cheekily billed as the two “deciding” Tests.

It’s because the Australians and Nathan Lyon went totally over the top when de Villiers was barbecued by a teammate and run out without scoring in the electric first Test in Kingsmead.

As de Villiers lay on his back, short of his ground, having failed to beat David Warner’s throw from backward square, a delighted Lyon dropped the ball straight on to his fallen opponent. It was like kicking a man when he was down.

De Villiers is one of cricket’s greatest ambassadors. So is Lyon but the Australian got it so wrong with his spur-of-the-moment action which so riled the South Africans.

De Villiers is their modern-day Graeme Pollock, the fairest player of all, a sincere, generous and super-skilled sportsman whose unbeaten 100 in the South African innings was simply superb.

AB de Villiers celebrates scoring a century during day three of the second Test. Pic: MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images
AB de Villiers celebrates scoring a century during day three of the second Test. Pic: MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images

To his credit, Lyon apologised overnight, but did not escape the censure of the ICC referee Jeff Crowe who is in the hottest seat of all this autumn.

De Villiers is the most respected and admired cricketer in the international game, ahead of anybody you’d care to name.

To see him extract a little personal revenge and lambast the Australians in mid-match at PE added an extra tinge to one of the most compelling series starts of recent times… and adds a lot of extra anticipation for all those lucky Australian travellers booked in for the last two Tests in Cape Town from March 22 and Johannesburg from March 30.

Meanwhile it was so refreshing to see Usman Khawaja stand up after his recent woes, his near four-hour vigil maintaining Australia’s faint hopes of forcing the game even into a fifth day.

His 75 was his highest overseas score in two years. The greatly improved Mitchell Marsh also continued the fight late in the day.

With the second new ball due in the second hour on Day Four, the Australians will be looking to score quickly if they are to stay in the game.  A refreshed Kagiso Rabada, facing almost certain suspension, is likely to again be Australia’s nemesis. He is in the hottest form of his headlining career.

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Author: Ken Piesse

KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. He has written, edited and published more than 70 sports books. Signed copies of his latest cricket book Heroes of the Hour, cricket’s quintessential moments from Bradman and Lillee to Warne and Steve Smith, is available from www.cricketbooks.com.au

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