THOSE who wondered if AB de Villiers could keep wicket and still perform with the bat received the answer during the first Test against Pakistan, in Johannesburg, which ended on Monday.
The South African wicketkeeper equalled the world record of 11 catches in a match, shared with England’s Jack Russell, who pouched his eleven against South Africa at the same ground in 1995-96.
What set them apart, though, was that De Villiers also scored a century and became not only the first Test cricketer but also the only first-class cricketer to score 100 and take 11 catches in a match.
"I was very happy with my performance with the gloves, because I wanted to do well and I feel I’m getting better at it," De Villiers said on Monday.
"A few catches were going in sweetly, but I’m still not quite where I want to be; however, it’s nice to reap some rewards. As far as my batting is concerned, I’ve always worked hard at it and hopefully I’ll keep improving."
He was unaware of the record he had set and said it was not a motivating factor or why he played cricket. "It’s not the kind of thing I play for.
I try and focus on the basics and do it for the team," said the man who is the epitome of a team player. "Records are there to be broken and I’m very lucky to be one of those guys who had the opportunity to do so, but I’ll still keep working harder to become an even better player."
Not wanting to take all the credit, De Villiers paid tribute to the Proteas’ top order, who gave him the freedom to play his own game as the No5 batsman.
"I don’t think people always realise how valuable the opening partnership of Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen was in the first innings (46), on a difficult wicket. They set up the whole team and took the nerves away," he said.
"I see a lot of teams on 5/2 or 10/3 and we’ve been very fortunate that we have a very solid top four, which gives us a great foundation to work off. It makes it so much easier for me at five, and Faf du Plessis at six, to come in with less pressure and a bit more freedom to play with. That’s exactly what they’ve done for us."
Working with Mark Boucher had also done wonders for his keeping and he said Boucher continued to play a major role in his career.
"Boucher won’t change my technique, but he’s definitely influenced me and, as I’ve watched him for many years, it’s rubbed off on me.
"He’s always been a supporter of mine and backed me all the way. I was the one hitting balls to him a few years ago. I learned a lot from him then and he is helping me now."
One of the question marks over De Villiers’ keeping ability was his problems with his lower back, but he said he was in good shape, feeling fit and not in any pain.
In the first innings, he took a blow to his index finger on the right hand, but said it was not serious, although he grimaced a few times during Pakistan’s second innings.
"It was mainly the nail that was affected and there was a bit of blood, but thankfully there were no fractures and no serious damage.
"It was a bit sensitive though, and I felt it a bit … but I’m good to go for the next Test in Cape Town."
• Cricket South Africa has praised the national women’s team for their superb victory over Pakistan, which has enabled them to reach the Super Sixes round of the 2013 ICC Women’s World Cup in India.
All-rounder Marizanne Kapp cleaned up with bat and ball as SA posted a 126-run victory over Pakistan in Cuttack, India, yesterday.
After losing their first two matches of the tournament to New Zealand and Australia, the Proteas women coasted to a comfortable win in their final pool clash to finish third in Group B.
Centurion Kapp and teenager Dane van Niekerk laid the foundation for the victory with the bat, as the South Africans made 207/5 in their 50 overs, and the bowling attack combined well to dismiss the Pakistanis for 81 runs in the 30th over.
"A victory by this margin is something special," said Cricket South Africa acting CEO Jacques Faul.
"It is quite remarkable when you consider this was a make-or-break game as far as they were concerned, which would see them either reach the next round or be eliminated. Happily it was the former."
Faul said they now looked forward to see how well the team would do in the Super Sixes. "There is no doubt that they are closing the gap on the top-ranked teams. We could see that in their group match against Australia, in which they were highly competitive," said Faul.
"I am sure coach Hilton Moreeng, captain Mignon du Preez, and the rest of the squad will draw inspiration from this opportunity to play on the biggest stage of women’s international cricket."