AB de Villiers admitted that there had been one or two awkward moments during the first ODI against New Zealand but was still as satisfied as any international captain should be with an ultimately comfortable six-wicket victory over one of the best one-day teams in the world.
“We were under a little bit of pressure (at 73-3) but it was great to get the job done with JP and me there at the end, there’s nothing more rewarding than that,” De Villiers said after play at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
De Villiers described the inability of the bowlers to take the final wicket having reduced the hosts to 156-9 as “disappointing” before hurriedly making the effort not to sound too critical of what had been, hitherto, an outstanding bowling performance.
“To restrict them to 230 on a wicket that didn’t too much was a brilliant performance. I’d definitely give the bowlers nine out of 10. It was a weird kind of wicket – I said it gave a tennis ball bounce but, having said that, a lot of balls hit me on the toe, so it was strange.
“But I thought it played the same throughout the match so I don’t think the toss played a big part. You had to graft, I never really felt ‘in’. I don’t think New Zealand were prepared to put the hard yards in up front so that’s maybe where they struggled,” De Villiers said.
On competition for places in the starting XI, the captain once again said that “no player is irreplaceable, that’s a fact of sport, especially cricket. I’m under pressure to perform, we all are.”
As worthy a sentiment as it was, De Villiers’s recent run of match- and series-winning performances against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Australia and now New Zealand means that his name is written in indelible ink when the team sheet is prepared. And is likely to be for a very long time to come.
The victory provided a happy band-aid to the rapidly gathering gloom over prospects of the West Indies end-of-year tour of SA proceeding without massive glitches.
The three-way stand-off between the WICB, the players and their Players Association, WIPA, shows no signs of thawing and the BCCI’s announcement that all future tours between the West Indies and India are cancelled – for now – is effectively a death sentence for cricket in the Caribbean.
After last summer’s miserable experience with India themselves, South African cricket lovers face another prolonged period of ‘wait-and-see’ (and hope) that a festive season of cricket worthy of the name will actually materialise.
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