Widely believed to be a batsman for all occasions and gifted with a temperament even the Gods would envy, AB de Villiers was gifted a glorious chance by the West Indies on January 18, 2015, in Johannesburg.
As if the batting-friendly turf wasn’t enough, the visitors would concede a mammoth 247 runs by the 38th over courtesy of South Africa’s highest opening stand Africa ever, thanks to Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw.
It was an absolute carnival for the South African fans as the openers shattered the West Indian bowler all across the ground, with the run rate standing at 6.5 for the first 38 overs. This wasn’t a time to exercise caution, and incoming batsman De Villiers was well aware of the same. Having reached close to a century, with scores of 91 and 81 in his last two ODI knocks, the South African skipper was raring to go.
Rossouw departed after scoring 128 runs, and while Amla stood at 114 runs, none expected the unexpected to happen - three consecutive centuries in an ODI by the same team. However, De Villiers’ boundary off the first ball towards mid-on did hint at the things to come. The wicket-keeper-batsman took less than an hour to turn a steady innings into a mountainous one.
De Villiers’ first victim was Andre Russell in the 40th over, who was hit for two sixes and two boundaries, setting a pattern for overs to come. The 42nd over saw new captain Jason Holder being sent for three sixes and a boundary as the carnage continued relentlessly for the next few overs until the cherry on the top in the 49th over. Facing Dwayne Smith, De Villiers hit an unbelievable four sixes and a boundary to take South Africa’s tally to 436 runs in 49 overs.
De Villiers stayed at the crease for less than an hour, hitting 16 sixes in the process, a joint ODI record with Rohit Sharma then. Amla and De Villiers forged a stunning 192-run stand in 59 minutes in which West Indies could bowl just 67 deliveries, with the former facing 30 balls and scoring 33 runs.
West Indies conceded 17.12 runs an over during this surreal phase as De Villiers spared no bowler on his way to scoring the fastest century in ODI cricket in 31 balls. The record was previously by New Zealand’s Corey Anderson, who had hit a 36-ball century the previous years.
De Villiers pulled, slogged, and scooped his way to dominate every West Indian bowler, the biggest sufferer of whom was Jason Holder. The West Indies captain conceded 45 runs off the South African skipper in just nine balls as De Villiers ended his 149-run knock with a blistering strike rate of 338.63.
The contest was a foregone conclusion long before West Indies came out to bat as they fell short of the 440-run target by 148 runs.
Speaking after the match, De Villiers said, “Lots of credit to Rilee and Hash upfront; it allowed me to free up. It was always going to be a lot of aggressive batting around Hash. He's a world-class batsman, making it look easy and taking the pressure off us. I had much time to warm up in the changing room, thinking about how I was playing…. I was on 92 when I knew the record was close, and I wasn't going to take singles!"
AB de Villiers’ record of scoring the fastest ODI century stands at the top even today after nine years.
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