Johannesburg: When he held a thin edge off tailender Umar Gul during the first session of the fourth day’s play, South Africa’s AB de Villiers equaled former England wicketkeeper Jack Russell’s record for most dismissals in a Test match, set against South Africa at this very venue in 1995. De Villiers held six catches behind the stumps in Pakistan’s record low of 49 all out on day two of the first Test at The Wanderers and added five in the second as the visitors slumped to a 211-run defeat on Monday.
Following Russell’s 11 dismissals in November 1995, de Villiers went past Bob Taylor and Adam Gilchrist’s mark of 10 dismissals in a Test match when he held an edge from Saeed Ajmal off Morne Morkel during the first session on day four. He drew level with Russell soon after, off the last ball of the 98th over when he collected the ball after Umar Gul swished at it, but the umpire did not rule it out.
The decision was reviewed and moments later HotSpot showed that Gul had indeed got a faint edge on the ball, and the South Africans celebrated their ninth wicket. De Villiers’ celebrations were muted; perhaps due to South Africa’s focus on taking a 1-0 series lead over individual achievements. He was denied a chance to claim the record for himself when Steyn trapped Junaid Khan lbw to finish the match in his next over, the 11th of a spell that brought him four wickets.
De Villiers, 28, has been South Africa’s wicketkeeper in all forms since Mark Boucher was forced to retire from an eye injury sustained in a tour match in England last summer. There was uncertainty on the part of head coach Gary Kirsten as to whether de Villiers would take over the gloves full time once the Pakistan series started on February 1. But with this landmark achievement it is likely that South Africa persist with de Villiers despite worries over his workload as batsman, wicketkeeper and limited-overs captain.
He has kept wicket as a designated glovesman in 12 of his 83 Test matches, taking his tally of dismissals to 49 (47 caught, two stumped). The record behind the stumps capped a memorable match for de Villiers, who scored a brisk unbeaten 103 off 117 balls in South Africa’s second innings as they set a target of 480 for Pakistan. In the process, he became the first wicketkeeper to score a century and claim 10 dismissals in a Test.