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17 March 201509:31

De Villiers v Sangakkara; the two best batsman in the World?

The top two one-day international batsmen in the world currently have more than common than just the ability to score masses of runs

De Villiers v Sangakkara; the two best batsman in the World? - Cricket News
Two batsmen at the peak of their powers will go head to head at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Wednesday’s sudden-death quarter-final.

The top two one-day international batsmen in the world currently, AB de Villiers and Kumar Sangakkara have more than common than just the ability to score masses of runs; both are true gentlemen of the game, embodying humility and approachability.

The former has even spoken of how he looked up to the latter when they first met on a cricket pitch in 2006, wishing to model his own behaviour on the way the Sri Lankan conducted himself on and off the field.

In that match in Colombo, Sangakkara scored a world record 624-run partnership with teammate and close friend Mahela Jayawardena.
De Villiers was 24 years old and in only his second year of international cricket at the time, but he has added many entries of his own to the cricket record books since.

Both have been in sublime form through this ICC Cricket World Cup to date.

Sangakkara has been scoring mountains of runs with his typical calm and effortless ease. Last week against Scotland, he became the first player to score four consecutive one-day international hundreds.

The Sri Lankan legend has also claimed the record for most World Cup dismissals and has people baffled as to why he intends to retire from one-day international cricket at the end of the tournament.

With scores of 105* against Bangladesh, 117* against England, 104 against Australia and 124 against Scotland, he will be top of the list of the targets for the South Africa bowlers.

Sangakkara may well need to score a fifth century in a row if his team is to topple the Proteas and prolong his ODI career beyond the match at the SCG.

The 37-year-old has played 403 ODIs for Sri Lanka since breaking into the team as a 22-year-old law student and is appearing in his fourth World Cup.

For 15 years he has been a pillar of the Sri Lanka line-up and achieved almost everything there is to achieve in cricket. Except win a Cricket World Cup.

He was part of the team which was knocked out of a semi-final in 2003, and which came oh so close in 2007 and 2011, only to be denied at the final hurdle.

Sangakkara has captained his country, won an ICC World Twenty20 and has 25 ODI and 38 Test centuries to his name.

A gifted sportsman, Sangakkara also played badminton, tennis and table tennis while at school.

An all-round talent for athletic pursuits is another thing Sangakkara shares with de Villiers.

The Proteas captain was a scratch golfer by his mid-teens and not long after was ranked in the national top two in his age group in tennis.

He tried his obscenely talented hand at rugby, hockey and cricket before seriously pursuing the latter.

The 31-year-old broke into the national team in 2004 and has since proved himself across all formats of the game.

De Villiers now holds the records for fastest 50, 100 and 150 in ODIs, has 20 hundreds and 45 fifties from 178 ODI innings and holds an average of 53.21.

He is the top-ranked batsman in the world right now, manages freakish exploits with the bat and in the field, is swift between the wickets and has even collected four wickets during the pool stage of this tournament.

In 2010, he released a music album.

Throughout it all, de Villiers has carried himself with the same typically cheerful, laid-back and at times refreshingly honest manner.
After his team suffered a 130-run loss at the hands of India earlier in the tournament, he simply said: “For now I just want to sort of go feel sad in my room for a while, and we'll see again how I feel tomorrow.”

This tournament alone has seen de Villiers produce the fastest 150 in history, at the Sydney Cricket Ground against West Indies, before he almost single-handedly saved the day against Pakistan at Eden Park before being dismissed with his team 31 runs shy of their target.

His innings in Sydney was a mix of conventional, unorthodox and simply unbelievable shots with eight sixes and 17 fours. It was also the second-fastest World Cup century ever, but it was not even de Villiers’ fastest ton this year, after he smashed 100 off 31 balls in January.

When Imran Tahir asked earlier in the tournament how he would bowl to his captain, he joked, “I'd probably bowl him a beamer or two, two beamers, and I'm out. Look, I'm just really happy that I'm playing with AB de Villiers and not against him.”

Described by former South Africa captain Shaun Pollock as “too humble”, de Villiers, like Sangakkara, has left bowlers scratching their heads wondering what they can possibly do to outsmart him.

Sangakkara’s brilliant form that has been him top the CWC15 run scoring tally at the end of the pool stage has also seen him climb to second on the ODI player rankings, behind de Villiers.

The batsmen have scored 496 and 417 runs respectively this tournament, but it is safe to say rankings will be the last thing from their minds when they take the field at the Sydney Cricket Ground tomorrow afternoon.

For one of them, a place in the semi-finals will beckon.

De Villiers has the opportunity to do what no other South Africa captain has done before – lead his team to a win in a World Cup knockout game.

Sangakkara has the chance to tick one final box in his coveted career before he bids farewell to ODI cricket, by winning a World Cup.