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AS SRI LANKA captain Dinesh Chandimal smacked a low full toss from Kyle Abbott in the fourth over, AB De Villiers ran in from mid-on to get the first touch on the ball. That was enough to get the entire Feroz Shah Kotla on its feet. Chants of AB, AB resounded. It was close to 8 pm in Delhi, and the crowd in excess of 13,000 was swelling.
With both Sri Lanka and South Africa out of the World T20, the final league encounter between these two teams was an inconsequential affair. Pride was at stake, but the sizeable crowd had turned up to catch a glimpse of just one man: AB De Villiers.
One of the star attractions in the IPL, the 32-year-old’s popularity is unmatched. As the South African team walked out, AB was in the thick of action. The senior-most member in the South African team was involved in an animated discussion in the team huddle at the start of the game. However, for a major part of Sri Lanka’s first innings, he had little to do on the field. The crowd, who were hoping to catch a glimpse of his exploits with the bat had to wait for a little while longer. As Sri Lanka were skittled for a paltry 120, the crowd grew even more restless. Chasing a smallish score, they hoped to see their star player getting a promotion up the batting order. None of that was going to happen though, as the Proteas decided to stick with their regular pair of Quinton De Kock and Hashim Amla.
Despite De Kock’s early departure (a run-out), there was so sign of De Villiers yet. Captain Faf Du Plessis replaced De Kock, and along with Amla, the duo stitched a 60-run stand for the second wicket. Amla played some delightful flick shots off his hips, while Faf was strong through the off side. But every shot they played were only greeted with chants of AB, AB, AB. As Faf was out LBW to Lakmal in the 13th over with South Africa just 45 runs adrift, AB De Villiers finally walked out to a rousing reception. This was that moment of the match the the crowd was waiting for.
In his short stint, in which he faced only 12 deliveries, he unleashed two shots that showcase his class and got the crowd on their feet. The first was a flat-batted hoick off Shanaka, which disappeared into the mid wicket fence. The second being a good old fashioned club that sailed past the long-on fence. Fittingly enough, the last shot brought up South Africa’s win. A comprehensive 8-wicket mauling with more than two overs to spare. In the end, it was a consolation win for the Proteas.
Earlier, Dale Steyn and Kylie Abbot started off with a bit of pace and nip, but Dilshan and Chandimal negated them with fine strokeplay. At the end of four overs, the Lankans had raced to 34/0. Left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso was introduced in the fifth over, and Dilshan immediately clubbed him for a boundary and a six in the first two deliveries. However, he came back strongly, to dismiss Chandimal and Thirimmane of successive deliveries to trigger the all familiar Lankan middle-order collapse.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 120 (Dilshan 36, Abbott 2-14) lost to South Africa 122/2 in 17.4 overs (Amla 56) by 8 wickets.