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Decade in review

Men’s ODI innings of the decade, No.2: AB de Villiers’ perfect storm

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner 5 minute read

AB de Villiers’ 149 off 44 balls, which contained the fastest 50 and fastest 100 in ODI history, sits second in Wisden’s men’s ODI innings of the decade.

AB de Villiers 149 (44 balls, 9 fours, 16 sixes)
South Africa v West Indies
The Wanderers, Johannesburg
2nd ODI
January 16, 2015

The innings

When designating ‘greatness’ in cricket, context is king. It’s not about how many, and sometimes it’s not even about how – when is the most important factor. The performances we remember are those that mattered, that shaped the pivotal moments on the grand stages. And yet AB de Villiers’ 149 against West Indies at the Wanderers in 2015, No.2 on Wisden’s list of ODI innings of the decade, arguably didn’t influence the result of the match it came in one iota.

Coming in in the 39th over, promoted to No.3 after a first-innings stand of 247 – de Villiers himself wanted David Miller to go in – even a mediocre finish would have propelled the Proteas far beyond the reaches of a listing West Indies. It’s a mark of de Villier’s own greatness that in such circumstances, in a settled game in a glorified World Cup warm-up, he was still able to summon something completely unforgettable.

He struck his first ball for four, though it was one of his less convincing shots, a slower ball clubbed through mid-on off the inside-half. But in the immediate aftermath, the signs were there of something special brewing.  De Villiers sucks air in through puckered lips, as you do when the incredible might be about to transpire, as he walks up to Hashim Amla, at this point unbeaten on 114 on a fraction under a run a ball, and both smile as they walk back to their respective ends. But Amla’s comes with a disbelieving look in the eyes, and AB’s is pure giddy mischief.

AB de Villiers made the fastest hundred in ODI history

From then on, de Villiers isn’t competing against the West Indies bowlers, but with himself and the limits of his imagination, picking a different area of the ground each ball and finding a way to send the ball there somehow, the thin air, 6,000 feet above sea level, flat pitch, and hefty platform providing the perfect playground. Andre Russell bowls it on a good length way outside off, AB moves across, gets down on one knee, and whirls it rows back over fine leg. Jerome Taylor fires it full on leg stump, AB perfectly places a reverse lap between two fielders to the third man fence.

As the roar of the crowd, already in party mode for ‘Pink Day’, increases in volume, the milestones come faster and faster. The first 50 runs come in 16 balls, the fastest by anyone in ODIs, the second off 15, de Villiers’ 31-ball hundred beating the previous mark by nearly an over, and his next 45 off 12, before he falls, trying to bring up 150 from 44 balls. Pure carnage, the like of which we may never witness again, from a player capable of doing things the rest can barely even dream of.

The shot

46.6, Andre Russell to AB de Villiers, six runs

One of de Villiers’ more orthodox shots, but no less impossible for it. Andre Russell nails a yorker, fast and on the stumps. Any other batsman would be happy to just dig it out and wait for an imperfect delivery. Instead, de Villiers swings and carves it way over deep point for six.

Wisden’s decade in review series is brought to you in association with Perry, designers of distinctive club blazers made in Yorkshire since 1946. Vote in the decade in review readers’ survey.

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