De Villiers returns to top 10; Steve Smith retains No1 spot
PORT ELIZABETH: South Africa’s AB de Villiers has returned to the top 10 of the ICC Test Rankings for batsmen after his stunning match-shaping hundred in the second Test against Australia in Port Elizabeth.
Steve Smith retains top spot and the rest of the leading six is unchanged while de Villiers jumps five places from 12th to seventh.
His team-mate Hashim Amla climbs one place to ninth with Pakistan’s Azhar Ali dropping one spot to eighth and England opener Alastair Cook dropping two places to tenth.
New Zealand’s Ross Taylor drops out of the top 10 from ninth to 11th position.
De Villiers made 126 not out in the second innings of South Africa’s six-wicket victory that levelled the four-match series at 1-1 with two Tests still to play.
It was de Villiers’ first Test hundred since January 2015 and the fifth time he has passed 50 since he returned to Test match cricket in December last year.
De Villiers, 34, spent almost two years out of the five-day game, missing 18 Tests for South Africa.
He marked his return to red-ball cricket with 53 against Zimbabwe in the Boxing Day Test also at Port Elizabeth.
He followed up with three fifties against India and now a fifty and century against Australia.
When he was caught at short leg by Cameron Bancroft off Nathan Lyon for 28 in South Africa’s second-innings run chase in Port Elizabeth, it was the first time he had been dismissed by a bowler in this series.
His unbeaten 126 from 146 balls in the first innings – that helped give South Africa a lead of 139 – was described by former South Africa captain Graeme Smith as “one of the great Test innings”.
De Villiers himself said: “I was very motivated to prove to everyone that I can still play the game, even though I have been away for a while.
“I was just tired of playing. I was just flat, physically and mentally. There were other factors, I had become a dad, there were a lot of things happening in my life. I felt I needed to breathe a bit.
“It was right up there with the best feeling ever. I was very nervous in the nineties. I was constantly reminding myself through the nineties that it’s not about yourself, it’s about contributing as many runs as possible to the team. That made me a feel a little bit better.”
De Villiers reached No.1 in the rankings in March 2012 and his highest rating of 935 points came two years later, coincidentally, after a century against Australia at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth. That rating is the joint 11th highest in history.
He was seventh in the batting rankings before his break from Test cricket following ducks in three successive home Tests against England in 2015-16.