Sydney Cricket Ground – AB De Villiers wasn’t feeling well yesterday. The toilets were where he wanted to be – back at the team hotel.
The bus ride to the ground was a difficult affair. He headed straight to the toilet when he got to this storied venue. In between, he was flat on his back, groaning. Laid low by a bout of gastroenteritis, there were doubts whether he’d even play.
“He was lying on the couch (in the dressing room) half dead, and I was just going, ‘Abbas, come on boy, what can I get you, can I get you some Gatorade just to get the spice going?’ I was telling him he was making me tired just looking at him,” Rilee Rossouw quipped afterwards.
They could joke about it later but immediately before the game there were discussions about whether to withdraw De Villiers from the match. Having already lost JP Duminy on account of a side strain, the absence of De Villiers would have left the batting seriously thin, and of course robbing the tournament of one of it’s great innings.
An injection was administered, pills taken and there were words of encouragement from teammates and management. During his innings he continued to struggle and shortly after reaching his century he had to take another pill. Imagine if he’d been 100 percent! The West Indies rather wouldn’t.
Rossouw, De Villiers admitted, was the catalyst that ignited his thrilling late charge that took what had been a reasonably even contest well beyond the West Indies. They must be sick at the sight of him.
“Rilee played a big part in getting me off my feet. I didn’t feel very well when I went out to bat, I was just really flat,” said De Villiers. “He had a lot of energy and intensity and he made the pitch look flat out there, which it really wasn’t. I fed off him a lot.”
They had come together in the 30th over with Chris Gayle having made twin strikes removing Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla within three balls of each other. However, instead of allowing the West Indies to take control, the pair, through aggressive running between the wickets, and then Rossouw punching a couple of boundaries, quickly gained the ascendancy. “We felt one of us had to be there at the 45th over,” explained De Villiers.
The acceleration was stunning. South Africa had shown caution initially, and looked tense in the first 20 overs. However, Amla and Du Plessis’ 127-run second-wicket partnership provided the perfect foundation, and, despite their departure in quick succession, De Villiers and Rossouw were able to make merry.
He may have scored two centuries – against the same opponents – but this was comfortably Rossouw’s best innings for the national team. Gone was the player who didn’t look like he belonged at this level and instead he produced a range of powerful strokes that regained the impetus for his side. “He’s a very competitive individual,” remarked De Villiers.
By the time he was dismissed for 61, in the 43rd over, South Africa were in complete control and then De Villiers let loose. “Not all of them came off the middle of the bat. You get into that kind of mode, it doesn’t happen very often, though,” said De Villiers.
De Villiers’ opposite number, Jason Holder, copped the worst of the beating when the South African captain was in full flow at the end. “If you take away my last two overs when AB really took me apart, it would have been a different story,” said Holder.
Or if those injections and energy pills hadn’t taken effect. De Villiers may have been sick but there was only one group of players who left this venue feeling ill last night – they were dressed in maroon … – Saturday star