On fire: AB de Villiers celebrates reaching his century in Paarl on Wednesday. His 176 was a career best in ODIs and was achieved after an absence since June. Picture: CHRIS RICCO/BACKPAGEPIX
On fire: AB de Villiers celebrates reaching his century in Paarl on Wednesday. His 176 was a career best in ODIs and was achieved after an absence since June. Picture: CHRIS RICCO/BACKPAGEPIX

Boland Park is perhaps SA’s prettiest cricket ground and it was rendered lovelier still while AB de Villiers painted a picture here on Wednesday.

At least, De Villiers’s 176, his career-best performance in a one-day international, was a pretty picture for SA’s fans.

Not so the sizable contingent of Bangladeshi supporters, who saw a fine innings — but an innings that condemned their team to defeat by 104 runs.

SA, who were put into bat for the third time in the four matches Bangladesh have played on tour, totalled 353/6; a record for this ground.

The visitors, bolstered by Imrul Kayes’s 68 and Mushfiqur Rahim’s 60, made it to 249 before they were dismissed in 47.5 overs.

Andile Phehlukwayo took a career best 4/40 and Imran Tahir claimed 3/50.

Not that Kayes or Mushfiqur, or many others anywhere in the game, would have been able to match De Villiers for dash, dare and dazzle.

That his opponents were the willing but wanting Bangladeshis aided and abetted his dominance, but any attack would have struggled to contain him in this mood.

De Villiers reached his century off 68 balls and in all faced 104. He hit 102 of his runs in fours and sixes, and he hit them with the kind of determination that suggested he had come to prove a point.

Maybe he had. Having last played for SA in June in what turned out to be his final game as SA’s ODI captain, De Villiers cannot fail to have heard the whispered wonderings about whether he was still a key member of SA’s team.

Hell yes, Wednesday’s innings yelled from the ground’s lowslung rooftops, and the tiptops of the trees that ring the place and the peaks of the mountains brooding beyond.

Already the holder of the records for the fastest 50, 100 and 150, De Villiers was on target to beat Chris Gayle’s record of 138 balls for the fastest ODI double century before he hit a low full toss from Rubel Hossain to deep midwicket with 14 balls remaining in the innings.

"It did cross my mind," he said of the possible double century, "but that’s not something I play for. It was all about how many balls I could face at the end of the innings to get as many runs as I could for the team.

"If it all worked out I would have got there but I’m happy with the 176."

The ease with which De Villiers found the boundary was in complete contrast to his teammates, who managed to hit only five fours and a six between them, struggling to time the ball as it rose slowly off the surface, while the outfield was unusually slow after three days of rain.

The match could be divided into three parts. It was ordinary before De Villiers arrived at the crease at the end of the 18th over, extraordinary until the 48th — when he holed out to Hossain — and back to ordinary for the rest of the game.

To fill you in on the ordinary bits, SA resisted experimenting with their batting order against opponents they hammered by 10 wickets in Kimberley on Sunday. Instead, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock rattled up an opening stand of 90 in 18 overs.

But three balls after Shakib Al Hasan ended the partnership by trapping De Kock in front for 46, he clean bowled Faf du Plessis for a duck.

Not that Bangladesh could make much of their twin strike as Amla and De Villiers added 136 for the third wicket. That stand ended when Rubel had Amla caught behind for 85.

Rubel dismissed JP Duminy and Dwaine Pretorius with consecutive deliveries in the last over of the innings to take 4/62.

But there was little else for the visitors’ fans to cheer. Their loudest burst of happiness went up for a verse, played on the public address late in the day, of a famous Bengali song.

It is called Pagla Hawa, or Crazy Wind.

That is De Villiers, right there.

Additional reporting AFP

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