Sunday 17 August 2008 

Gibbs Ready To Spearhead South African ODI Attack

Just over two weeks ago, South Africa recorded their first Test Series victory in England since 1965. Fresh from that historic triumph Graeme Smith’s men are now preparing to take on England in the shorter form of the game.

While many of South Africa’s heroes from the Test series will also be in action for the ODIS, there will be a few fresh faces for the One Day series. One of the most notable additions to South Africa’s One Day squad is Herschelle Gibbs .

Gibbs has a reputation of being one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket today. On the eve of the One Day series, Cricket World’s Aaron Kumar reflects on some memorable performances by this dynamic batsman, and looks ahead to the eagerly awaited One Day series.

Born in Cape Town, in 1974 Gibbs made his One Day International debut in October 1996. It did not take Gibbs long to find his feet at the highest level as he smashed his maiden ODI century against the West Indies in just the 20th game of his career.

The unrestricted nature of Gibbs’ stroke play has made him a joy to watch for the best part of a decade. Gibbs is one of just three batsman to have scored three consecutive ODI centuries, and very nearly became the first batsman to score four in a row, but was left stranded on 97 not out in a game against Bangladesh.

Gibbs' finest hour to date was in March 2006 at Johannesburg against the mighty Australians. The five match ODI series was level at two all, meaning that the game in Johannesburg, was set to be the series decider.

Ricky Ponting won the toss and elected to bat first. The Australian captain led by example as he smashed a quite brutal 164 from just 105 balls, allowing Australia to post a mammoth total of 434 for four. It was the first time that any team had posted in excess of 400 in a One day International.

Australia appeared to have one hand on the trophy at the half way stage of the deciding match. However, a fantastic partnership of 187 between Gibbs and Graeme Smith put the South Africans back in the game. Smith was dismissed for 90 from 55 balls, but Gibbs continued his assault on the Australian bowlers, as he struck a magnificent 175 from 111 balls.

Although Gibbs failed to be the first ODI double centurion, he put his team in a position from which victory was almost assured. South Africa duly wrapped up a historic victory by one wicket - with one ball to spare.

Ponting and Gibbs were jointly awarded the man of the match accolade. However, Ponting said after the game that in his mind, that award should solely belong to Gibbs, given the nature of his knock and its significance.

South Africa’s series triumph against the Australians made many believe that Graeme Smith’s men would lift the 2007 World Cup. While this did not materialise, South Africa losing to Australia in the semi-finals, Gibbs provided the tournament with one of its most memorable moments.

Against the Netherlands, Gibbs smashed six sixes in an over off the bowling of Daan van Bunge; Gibbs was the first man to achieve this feat in an ODI and the third in the history of the game.

Breathtaking performances like these have made Gibbs a joy to watch for the fans, and an asset to his team and nation.

When I asked Gibbs about his amazing performance in the famous ODI against Australia, the joy and satisfaction from that innings was still evident.

"It was a One Day game, obviously made for the people. I am sure that is the most enjoyable game that I have ever played, but I am hoping that I have a few years to go and hopefully in a few years I can tell you which is my proudest game."

South African fans will be hoping that there are some more proud moments in the forthcoming ODI series against England, and Gibbs could well play a crucial role in determining whether Graeme Smith’s men return to South Africa with more silverware.

Gibbs made the perfect start to his tour by scoring 81 to help South Africa defeat the England Lions.

Aaron Kumar
© Cricket World 2008