De Villiers century removes question mark over dual role
PERTH (Reuters) - South Africa's AB de Villiers removed the question mark over whether he could bat while also keeping wicket with a storming 169 on Sunday to help his country to the brink of a series triumph over Australia.
The 28-year-old took up the gloves on the tour of England last July, initially as an interim measure, when a freak eye injury prematurely ended the career of 147-test wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.
Although his skills as a wicketkeeper have never been in doubt, the lack of so much as a half century since he adopted the role had some asking whether the extra duties were taking their toll on his batting.
He answered the doubters in some style on day three with a pugnacious 184-ball 169 littered with cover drives, pull shots, hook shots and three stunning reverse sweeps for four on successive balls to get him to the hundred mark.
"Obviously, there's a bit of added pressure on me with the gloves in hand," he told reporters. "It's been coming for a while now. Can I score runs with the gloves? Luckily I did today.
"I honestly believe I don't get as tired when I'm keeping," he added.
"When you are in the field and running up and down, it's really hard work and it can be mentally draining as well. When I'm keeping, I have 30 yards to run between overs and that's it.
"I've got to expect the ball a bit more often but I love being in the game, it keeps me on my toes and I'm really loving having the gloves in hand."
There has certainly been no question mark over the batting of Hashim Amla this year and he took his tally of runs over the 1,000 mark for 2012 with a sparkling innings of 196 off 221 balls.
Coming after Australia had been bowled out for 163 on Saturday, the cascade of quick runs wrenched the game away from the hosts as South Africa were all out for 569 in their second innings.
"It wasn't a plan. When I got to the crease with Graeme (Smith) there were a few loose balls we were able to get away and so that gave us some momentum," explained Amla.
"We just felt good and continued doing it. We managed to manipulate the field a bit - wherever there's gaps you try to hit the ball - so I tried a few one-day shots.
"We were in a strong position, which kind of gives you the freedom to do it. So if it goes wrong, it's not a train smash."
Victory for South Africa now looks highly likely with Australia set to resume on 40-0 on Monday with a target of 632 for victory with two days left.
"I feel really proud about what happened today," De Villiers said of his innings.
"But once again, it's not a great performance if we don't win this game so I'll really love it if we can push through tomorrow, and on day five maybe.
"I believe we have the skill to take 10 wickets," he added. "Our bowlers did amazingly well in the first innings, the best they have in this entire series.
"I'm expecting more fireworks tomorrow from them."
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Mark Meadows)
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