“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 yesterday was not 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 had lost.”
Instead‚ De Villiers (37 not out) watched as Andile Phehlukwayo (29 not out) heaved sixes off Trent Boult and Southee that had much to do with South Africa’s scramble to success with a ball remaining.
That earned South Africa a 12th consecutive win in ODIs.
The unbroken stand realised 54 runs off 43 balls‚ and took South Africa to 210/6 in reply.
Quinton de Kock hit nine fours and a six in his 69‚ the top score in the match‚ and Hashim Amla put on 88 for South Africa’s first wicket.
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. Yesterday’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. “We have great team spirit. “That was a great win for us‚ but there are lots of games left in the series and we know it’s nowhere near done.”
Earlier, Chris Morris felt both sides of cricket’s double-edged sword in New Zealand’s innings.
He trapped Tom Latham in front before dismissing Doug Brownlie and Ross Taylor in one over and Neil Broom in his next.
But Morris’s figures‚ which read 4/24 when he had Broom caught at square leg with the last ball of his fifth over‚ ballooned to 4/62 when his last two overs bled 38 runs.
The next game is in Christchurch on Wednesday.