Inspite of blasting a 61-ball 119 in the fifth and final ODI against India, South African skipper AB De Villiers has played down his effort in comparison to teammate Faf du Plessis’s more sedate 133, saying the knock helped other batsmen free up.
“Faf did not get enough credit for his knock. He came in at a very difficult situation, in the middle of the innings, when Indian spinners started dominating a bit. He controlled the innings exceptionally very well. It allowed (third centurion in innings) Quinton (de Kock) and me to, sort of, free up,” said de Villiers in the post-match conference at the Wankhede Stadium.
“You could see both of us scored at faster than run-a-ball hundred and that was because of Faf’s stability at the other end. He was getting really tired throughout his innings and to show that kind of determination to anchor the innings, which is not easy, was incredible and makes it
probably the most important of the three (centuries),” said the visiting team captain after his team thrashed India by 214 runs to sew up the best-of-five series 3-2.
South Africa piggy-backed on the trio of tons to aggregate a sky-high score of 438 for four and then bundled out the hosts for a paltry 224 in 36 overs to create history by winning their first-ever bilateral ODI series in the country.
In the context of what was achieved, de Villiers rated the game as his best as captain.
“It was obviously a huge game, final and history on line. With that regard it’s definitely the biggest game and the best game I have captained. It was a complete performance with the bat and ball and I am very proud of the boys,” he said.
Apart from the batting might, the visitors’ fast bowling duo – spearhead Dale Steyn and rising pacer Kagiso Rabada – cut a scythe through the Indian batting to pick up 3 for 38 and 4 for 41 respectively.
Third pace bowler Kyle Abbott (1 for 39) and leg-spinner Imran Tahir (2 for 50) were the other successful bowlers for South Africa, who had earlier won the best-of-three T20 rubber too.
De Villiers also said that his team has once again showed they had the best batting line up towards the end of an ODI innings and said their focus on their own game rather than the opposition has paid them rich dividends.
“We got our game plans for each individual. I would not say there are areas we are trying to exploit against India. We are focusing on our team. With the bat over the last 20-30 overs, we are definitely the best line-up in the world, there’s no doubt. We have proved it over quite a few years now.
“With the ball in hand, it’s the aggression with the seamers. We controlled the pace of the innings really well and those are the things we focused on rather than where we can expose India. I think we have kept it pretty simple, really focused on our strengths rather than the opposition which has really helped us.”
The touring ODI captain also praised all his seam bowlers when asked about the extra aggression brought in by Steyn towards the latter part of the Indian innings.
“All the seamers had a fantastic series. Dale has always been like that. When he senses a weakness and sees an opportunity to pick up wickets, he comes up with double aggression. He was really fired up when I brought him on again.
“I thought all the seamers had great control in the first ten which was very important. I knew India would try for a flyer, and to restrict them to 5 and 5 and a half runs an over was unbelievable. They were hoping to get 80 to 100 in the first ten. The bowlers set the trend by clever mixture of pace and aggression.”
About his own incredible knock, de Villiers said he wanted to blast his way from quite early on but had to curb his aggression when seeing his partner du Plessis struggling with onset of leg cramps.
“I don’t think of totals really when I am batting I get a sense whether it’s a good wicket or not. I know our strengths, that’s to have wickets in hand and I was constantly thinking about not going too early; just one of us must go and can’t leave Faf as it looks like he is cramping.
“I was a bit in a 50:50 mind set. It was relay difficult to control. I got a sniff early, got a bit of momentum and wanted to go (hammer and tongs) almost but held back the whole time. I was thinking of just waiting for Faf getting out and a new batsman to come out. That’s what I tried to do.”
De Villiers also praised de Kock for his superb 109 in 87 balls up the order and young fast bowler Rabada.
“I am very happy for Quinton. He has come through a tough patch. Has done the hard yards and worked on his technique. I’m a big fan and think he will be a great player. He’s got incredible flair and a great mind when he’s playing. I am proud of what he has achieved.”
About Rabada, de Villiers said, “He’s another one that is knocking on the door of greatness in future, he knows lot of work remains, lot of battles to go through, a lot of talent there. Has a great mind on his shoulders, easy to work with. It’s an absolute pleasure to captain him. He’s pretty clear with his decision making and wants to succeed and win games for South Africa.”
He also praised the Wankhede track as perfect for batting in both the innings.
“I thought it was a very fair contest between bat and ball. I thought it was going to spin a bit more. There was a little bit of turn. It was a good cricket wicket and played very similar in both innings and I thought it (ball) came on really nicely in the evening too.
“But at the end we had too many runs and played really well with the bat in hand which gave the bowlers lot of freedom to follow the game plan with lot of aggression and pace which they did.”
He, however, expected India to bounce back in the four-Test rubber starting on November 5.
“It’s an incredible achievement by us to win both the series. (But) I have a feeling Test matches will be a big challenge again and India will want to come back harder and stronger. We know they are the ability to do that.
“Once again we are very hungry for success and to create history. We love travelling abroad, that’s where our team spirit kicks in and plays a role. There’s no reason we can’t win the Test series. But we know a lot of hard work is ahead in the four Tests on some of the harder Test wickets in India and obviously they will be up for that as well. It will be a great Test series.”