TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
“NOT for a second were we in control,” is not the kind of thing winning captains tend to say, but South Africa’s four-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first one-day international in Hamilton on Sunday wasn’t an ordinary kind of game.
So AB de Villiers’ startling assertion afterwards was understandable.
Minutes before, for instance, De Villiers had to make sense of Tim Southee bowling off-spin at just a touch lower than his normal blistering pace.
Southee’s deliveries bounced like missiles and spat like snakes off a surface that offered more turn than an electric screwdriver.
“I didn’t see the ball turn that much when we bowled (in New Zealand’s total of 207/7 in a match reduced by rain to 34 overs-a-side),” De Villiers said.
“Early on with the new ball it wasn’t so bad, but it’s easy to say that now.
“It would have sounded an excuse if we’d lost.”
Instead, De Villiers watched as Andile Phehlukwayo heaved sixes off Trent Boult and Southee that had much to do with South Africa’s scramble to success with a ball remaining.
Together De Villiers and Phehlukwayo took byes to the wicketkeeper off the first two balls of a final over in which they needed two runs per ball.
The second of those deliveries was converted into two wides after a ripper from Southee steepled high enough over De Villiers’ head to be ruled illegal.
Control? Control is what happens when things go according to plan. Sunday’s game was not one of those times.
“Experience-wise it was 10 out of 10 to be put under pressure like that with the bat,” De Villiers said.
“Conditions-wise? Nought out of 10.
“I don’t think we’re going to face any conditions like that in the UK.”
Which is where the Champions Trophy will be played in June, when De Villiers hopes the preparation his team will gather in their five ODIs in New Zealand will be put to good use.
“The belief is definitely there (within the squad),” De Villiers said. “I won’t look into it any deeper than that.
“We have great team spirit, which makes it a lot easier on tour. But I won’t analyse it too much.”
“That was a great win for us, but there’s lots of games left in the series and we know it’s nowhere near done.”
The next one is in Christchurch on Wednesday.