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AB de Villiers South Africa’s last hope as Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team eye series win

Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team are on the cusp of a historic series win in South Africa ahead of the fourth ODI in Johannesburg but the Proteas will be boosted by the return of AB de Villiers.

cricket Updated: Feb 09, 2018 18:51 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
Virat Kohli,AB de Villiers,Indian national cricket team
Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have been the chief destroyers in the last three games and South Africa will be facing an uphill battle as they aim to avoid a series loss in the fourth ODI at Johannesburg(AP)

Just after the nets at noon, AB de Villiers was engrossed in a chat with South Africa coach Ottis Gibson outside the dressing room on Friday.

The hosts, down 3-0 in the six-match series, are on the verge of losing their first ODI series to India at home. If they are to avert that, they need to win the remaining games, starting with the fourth ODI here on Saturday.

De Villiers, making a comeback after a finger injury forced him to miss the first three games, will be the man the depleted Proteas will look up to in the remaining games. Though South Africa all-rounder Chris Morris claimed de Villiers was under no extra pressure, his usually jovial face looked grave during that conversation with Gibson, hinting a lot was on his mind.

Incidentally, De Villiers’ Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, has been the wrecker-in-chief for India along with Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav.

Kuldeep Yadav has formed a magnificent combination with Yuzvendra Chahal in the first three games of the one-day series. (REUTERS)

COUNTERING SPIN

De Villiers is easily the best player of spin among the South Africa batsmen, and just like Virat Kohli single-handedly carried India to victory in the Cape Town ODI with an innings of impact, AB will be expected to do that at the Wanderers.

“AB is AB, he is good to go. He brings a lot on and off the field -- the calmness and experience. He always has the game inputs for spin or seam. Am sure AB has a few pointers for guys on how to play spin, how to handle spin, maybe taking attacking options,” said Chris Morris.

Despite an outstanding 2017, when he averaged close to 60 – it was buoyed by a 176 against Bangladesh -- de Villiers didn’t really get on top of spinners. He was dismissed cheaply twice in three games by spinners in the Champions Trophy – against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Out of the 13 times he was dismissed last year, spinners got him six times and he was run out once trying to up the scoring against India in the Champions Trophy. Sri Lanka got him four times, dismissed thrice by wrist spinners and once by left-arm orthodox.

MIDDLE-ORDER FIRMNESS

He will be expected to man the middle order, and unlike last year when his role was to attack after SA’s solid starts, he may have to play himself in and stay on against the spin duo. That will be crucial as other than him, no one has got a hang of the lengths bowled by Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, just short to prevent shots down the ground, which is what SA prefer as JP Duminy pointed out the other day.

The wicket has been in focus. Wanderers was penalised for dishing out a poor pitch for the final Test last month. Morris yearned for the old Wanderers track. “Everyone in the camp is hoping for the old Wanderers wicket, not good for spin but a good wicket.”

While India have never lost a Test at this venue, South Africa have been better in ODI duels. Importantly, they’ve never lost a pink ODI – played to support the breast cancer campaign.

But records, as Morris says, mean nothing. At least in this series as India have managed to turn everything upside down with their captain Virat Kohli leading the charge and their spinners casting a spell.

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 18:28 IST