Proteas put to the test

PROTESTING INNOCENCE: AB de Villiers of South Africa in consultation with umpires Rob Bailey and Chris Gaffaney about the condition of the match ball

After two losses and another ball-tampering row, AB tries to lighten mood

South Africa lost as many oneday internationals in four days last week as they did in the previous eight months. Their tworun defeat by England in Southampton on Saturday followed a 72-run loss in Leeds on Wednesday.

South Africa won 14 of the 16 ODIs they played before they went to England‚ a stretch of success that started on September 25 last year.

But AB de Villiers did not sound like a beaten captain after the series was lost on Saturday.

“Games like these give me a lot of confidence‚” he said.

“I’ve seen the boys in the dressing room and they are quite upset and very disappointed.

“But I’ll try to lighten the mood because I think we deserve that – we played a really good game of cricket today.

“More of today with a little bit more care in the field is‚ I think‚ what is required.”

They will get the chance to put De Villiers’s theory into practice in the last game of the series at Lord’s today.

South Africa botched six catches on Saturday and their bowling‚ though more effective than on Wednesday‚ lacked consistency.

A thrilling climax ensued with Mark Wood defending seven runs in the last over‚ but South Africa were in the running only because of an unbroken stand between David Miller and Chris Morris that yielded 62 runs off 41 balls.

“The boys played a great hand at the end to get us so close. I thought we had it in the bag,” De Villiers said.

“We didn’t get that lucky bounce, a little edge‚ something like that.”

De Villiers was less positive about a conversation he had with umpires Rob Bailey and Chris Gaffaney after the 33rd over of England’s innings.

“The umpires felt the condition of the ball changed‚ in a way making me feel that we are responsible as a team‚” he said. “I was quite upset about that. “I told the umpires we had nothing to do with the condition of the ball except for the fact that [Keshav] Maharaj bowled five overs on the trot from that end and the ball generally scuffs up when the spinner bowls a few overs.”

Did De Villiers think the umpires had accused his team of ball-tampering? “Yes, I did feel that,” he said. The ball was not changed and De Villiers was satisfied the matter had been laid to rest.

“No further steps were taken from both parties‚” De Villiers said.

“The game was still played in great spirit after that. Credit to both the umpires and us as a team.

“If I can give my five cents‚ I think it was just a bad Kookaburra on the day.

“That happens sometimes, the leather comes off a little bit from badly manufactured balls. “But the umpires didn’t agree with that. “Generally there is a warning or a fine. None of that happened‚ which tells me they realised we were innocent in this case – I think.”

Well might De Villiers have given himself pause for thought. South Africa have been convicted of ball-tampering three times since October 2013‚ most recently in Australia in November.

The last thing they need ahead of the start of the Champions Trophy this week is that kind of controversy‚ especially with De Villiers one infraction of the over-rate regulations away from a ban.

South Africa play their first match of the tournament against Sri Lanka at The Oval in London on Saturday. – TMG Digital

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