Shamik Das

Monday, July 21, 2008

If AB is Laurel, does that make Smith Hardy?

"That's another fine mess you've gotten us into"

THE goofy smile, mop of ginger hair and puzzled expression make Abraham Benjamin de Villiers and Stan Laurel look like identical twins, and on Friday afternoon AB really did live up to the name.

His juggling act to try and dismiss Andrew Strauss, when he caught the ball, dropped it to the ground, then "caught" it again, was pure slapstick, high farce of which Stan would have been proud.

That aside, though, AB is no clown. He can bat anywhere in the order, from one through to seven, aggressive opener, middle-order couter-attacker or lower-middle-order battler; he's a great slip fielder and can even keep wicket, far better than any of England's current crop - now they really are jokers - and he also likes to bowl medium pacers.

Like all South Africans, cricket's not all he's good at, his sporting prowess stretching to hockey, where he excelled in his youth, golf, which he plays off scratch, swimming and rugby.

He also holds the record for the most Test innings without a duck, for a batsman never dismissed without scoring - 73 and counting - and is his team's chief ball-shiner.

And today he proved just how good a fielder he is, diving full-stretch in the gully to pull off a brilliant catch to dismiss Ian Bell for four and break into the tail to go alongside his first innings 174 and set up the Proteas' ten-wicket drubbing of England.

Catch, catch, catch: Jonty Rhodes in full flight

It was a catch the legendary Jonty Rhodes would have been proud of, and reminiscent of his unbelievable catch to dismiss Robert Croft in the 1999 World Cup, when he leapt up into the air at point, palmed the ball up and then caught it on the way down.

You had to scratch your eyes and do a double-take before realising what had happened

Complete second Test scorecard
Third Test: Wednesday 30th July - Sunday 3rd August (Edgbaston)


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