AB DE VILLIERS became the first South African to score three centuries against Pakistan to set up a 4-1series victory for the Castle Lager Proteas in the final ODI at Sharjah on Monday. It also took him to the landmark of 6 000 career ODI runs – the fifth South African to do so.
The winning margin was a massive 117 runs as the South Africans continued to build the momentum they have had in the last three matches.
It was, in fact, the first time the Proteas have won three ODI’s in a row since the tour to New Zealand 18 months ago.
De Villiers finished unbeaten on 115 off 102 balls (10 fours and 3 sixes) which was a remarkable turnaround from the way the Proteas had struggled in the first half of their innings after winning the toss. They only managed 114 for three in the first 30 overs but then managed to score an incredible 114 for two in the last 10 overs when De Villiers took complete control with good support from Man of the Series Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell.
De Villiers and McLaren put on 83 for the sixth wicket in 9.2 overs and then De Villiers and Parnell needed only 1.2 overs for a further unbroken stand of 28 for the eighth wicket. De Villiers, who was the obvious choice as Man of the Match, needed 72 balls to reach his half-century with only one six and one four which was a good indication of the pressure exerted by Pakistan’s front-line bowlers but then needed only 29 balls to add a further 67 with nine further fours and two more sixes.
The earlier batsmen had also played their part with Faf du Plessis being involved in two half-century partnerships with Quinton de Kock and De Villiers and this resulted in danger men, Mohammed Irfan and Shahid Afridi, being bowled out by the 42nd over and Saeed Ajmal only having two overs left.
Ajmal did manage to capture the wicket of McLaren but Pakistan were left in a fairly defenceless position which the Proteas fully exploited.
With all of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir being rested the Proteas still managed to bowl Pakistan out for 151 with more than 14 overs left unbowled. It was a signal tribute to the current depth of the Proteas’ squad with Vernon Philander picking up two early wickets in an impressive return to the ODI squad and Parnell continuing his good form in the three matches he has played with three wickets of his own.
McLaren has been one of the stars of the show and fully deserved picking up his first series award. He now has a batting average in excess of 30 to go with his bowling average of 27 this year and he has nailed down the No. 7 position in the side. The Proteas are also in the happy position of having other quality bowling all-rounders such as Philander and Parnell in reserve.
With Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis due to return in the near future the Proteas ODI squad is looking a great deal healthier than it has for some time.