AB Ds Villiers personified the statement of intent of the Castle Lager Proteas as he led his side to an overwhelming 257-run victory over the West Indies in their ICC Cricket World Cup Pool B match at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday.

South Africa skipper AB de Villiers blast 162 off 66 balls that included 17 fours and 8 sixes against West Indies. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

Having previously claimed the world records for the fastest ODI 50 and century in his previous destruction of the men from the Caribbean he added the fastest 150 to his list of personal milestones with his unbeaten 162 off 66 balls (17 fours and 8 sixes).

This amounted to more than the entire West Indies total of 151 as Kyle Abbott removed the two most dangerous batsmen – Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels – up front and then Imran Tahir ran through the middle order with his first five-wicket haul (5/45 in 10 overs) including two wickets in an over on two occasions.

As was the case at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium when he shattered the record for the fastest century, De Villiers reduced all his colleagues to side shows in spite of their own quality. The Proteas will have taken particular heart from the performances of both Abbott and Rilee Rossouw who came into the game as fringe players and might not have got game time had Vernon Philander and JP Duminy been fit.

Rossouw’s innings was particularly impressive as he came to the crease at a stage when the Proteas lost two established batsman, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, after a 127-run partnership for the second wicket, and had to start from scratch with De Villiers.

He actually matched De Villiers run for run for the duration of his innings, finishing on 61 (39 balls, 6 fours and a six) in a partnership of 134 in 12.3 overs. His judgment of length was impeccable as he played a variety of drives and pulls for most of his runs.

The pair also shared a batting power play that was worth a South African record 72 runs without loss, the highlight being the fact that there was not a single dot ball in the five overs. They either hit boundaries or resorted to tip-and-run and turned singles into two’s.

Apart from the glorious mix of conventional, unorthodox and downright outrageous that De Villiers brings with one of the most imaginative minds the game has ever seen, a highlight was the running between the wickets between De Villiers and Rossouw and then between De Villiers and David Miller who added a further 48 for the fifth wicket in only 4.3 overs.

But that was just the prologue to the final show as De Villiers, supported by Farhaan Behardien, added an unbroken 80 for the sixth wicket in only 3.2 overs. De Villiers took 34 off Jason Holder’s ninth over and 30 off his 10th to see his figures mushroom from 1/40 in 8 to 1/104 in 10. He had had an opening spell of 1/9 in 5…..

The Proteas finished on 408/5 with 78 of those runs coming in the last three overs. It was the highest ODI total ever on Australian soil while the winning margin of 257 runs equalled the World Cup record established by India against Bermuda at Queen’s Park Oval in 2007. It was just one run short of the South African record.

There were plenty of other World Cup records, notably the 261 runs scored in the last 20 overs and the 150 in the last 10.

Ironically, the two main talking points before the game had been the impact Gayle would have with the bat and the performance of South Africa’s fifth bowling option. As it turned out Gayle made his main contribution with the ball, dismissing Amla and De Villiers in quick succession and having tidy figures of 4/24 in 4 overs.

Such was the demolition job done by Abbott, Imran and company, not to mention the pressure of runs on the scoreboard, the Proteas did not need a fifth bowler although Du Plessis did turn his arm over for three overs.

Apart from confirming that the Proteas have now arrived at the World Cup, the one lesson they will have reminded themselves is that a solid foundation from the top three is essential to make the later fireworks possible. The key factor is wickets in hand going into the final 15 overs. Amla and Du Plessis won’t hit the headlines today but their partnership was crucial to what followed.

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