Proteas

De Villiers fires on Proteas return

AB de Villiers (Gallo)
AB de Villiers (Gallo)

Cape Town - AB de Villiers, new bat in hand, fired the Proteas to 169/5 in the third T20I against Sri Lanka at Newlands on Wednesday. 

It was the first time that De Villiers had batted for the Proteas since June last year. 

LIVE: PROTEAS V SRI LANKA, 3RD T20I

His elbow injury is very clearly a thing of the past, and in one innings of 63 (44) he has reminded South Africans of what they have been missing for the past seven months.

Sri Lanka now need 170 to win the series, but they will be buoyed by the fact that it could have been more at one stage.

The Proteas were off to a flying start with the new-look opening pair of JJ Smuts and Reeza Hendricks finding the fence immediately. 

They were 22/0 after 2 overs and threatened at that early stage to take the game away from the Sri Lankans. 

Smuts was looking for a big knock to put his hand up beyond this series, but he was undone by the change of pace when Sri Lanka brought on spin through Seekkuge Prasanna in the fifth over. 

The spinner had his man when Smuts went on the sweep but missed to be trapped LBW for 19 (14). 

That brought De Villiers to the wicket as the Newlands crowd roared to greet the man they had all come out to see. 

De Villiers took his time initially, nudging the ball around. 

By the end of the powerplay, the Proteas were well positioned at 48/1, with Hendricks looking the part. 

By the time De Villiers had faced 25 balls he was well poised on 29* having struck just one boundary. 

It hadn't been entirely effortless for the current ODI captain, but he and Hendricks cruised to their 50-run partnership off 40 balls. 

With wickets in the bank, it was time to have a go. 

De Villiers broke the shackles in the 12th over - coming down the wicket to launch rookie spinner Lakshan Sandakan over his head for a six in a moment that confirmed that he was back.

Asela Gunaratne was then whipped over short fine-leg for another six as De Villiers moved into full flight. 

After 13 overs, South Africa were 107/1 with Sri Lanka staring down the barrel. 

Sandakan then had Hendricks stumped for 41 (34), but there was little to celebrate for the visitors as that brought David Miller to the crease. 

De Villiers brought up his 9th T20 50 off just 35 balls when he blasted a Gunaratne long-hop to the fence in the 15th over.  

It was not to be Miller's (1) day, and he was out in the same over as he swept Gunaratne to the fine-leg boundary when looking to clear the ropes. 

Captain Farhaan Behardien was run out via a direct hit when looking for a second, but the big blow came with the first ball of the 18th over when De Villiers was out when he hit a Nuwan Kulasekara full toss to point. 

It was a wicket that came at a crucial time for the Proteas as they were made to see out the innings with two new batsmen. 

Mangaliso Mosehle (32* off 15), though, had other ideas and he smashed three sixes in the final over to get the Proteas to 169.

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