AB de Villiers has defended his bowlers after they conceded 399 against England in the first ODI and said the call to rest Kagiso Rabada was the right one.
South Africa lost the first game in Bloemfontein on Wednesday by 39 runs via the Duckworth/Lewis-method after rain brought a premature end to proceedings. They were stranded on 250-5 when play was called off.
The bowlers took a hammering and although it was a good wicket for batting, they did themselves no favours with some truly awful bowling. While De Villiers admitted they struggled, he refrained from criticising his bowling attack.
‘It [bowling] could have been better,’ De Villiers said.. ‘It was a tough toss to lose. It was really hard on the bowlers for the first 10 or 15 overs. It took us a while to realise it was an incredibly good wicket. We were a little bit slow to adapt with our lengths, but I’m not going to be too hard on the bowlers.
‘I don’t think they had that bad a day. I think we showed it with the bat in hand; cruising at 7.5 runs an over, not even trying to push the run-rate up. So it was a really good cricketing wicket.’
With Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott not available, South Africa decided to give Rabada, their best bowler during the Test series, a rest for the first ODI with Marchant de Lange, Chris Morris and Morne Morkel forming the seam attack.
‘It was a call between quite a few people involved,’ De Villiers said of the decision to leave Rabada out.
‘The selectors, management, medical team and myself and we felt that it was really important for him to rest a bit. There’s a lot of cricket to come in this year still and he’s got a long future ahead of him so, I think it was the right call.’
Quinton de Kock carried South Africa’s chase with an unbeaten 138, but managed only one partnership of more than 100 runs, with Faf du Plessis (55). De Villiers was dismissed with a magnificent catch by Ben Stokes, though it was viewed as somewhat of a contentious wicket by some.
‘We lost a couple of wickets too many, myself, Rilee perhaps,’ he said. ‘So I think it was advantage England but run-rate wise we were right up there and I think we gave them a nice scare and showed them what we’re all about as a top seven.
‘I used my feet a little bit too well and got too close to the pitch [of the ball]. I couldn’t get enough elevation on it. I did however try and get a little bit squarer but I was a little bit unhappy about the fact that the wind also pushed it a bit towards him [Stokes].
‘It was a great catch and I thought he did well to keep it in, if he did. But I was unhappy because we needed a partnership there so I have to be hard on myself. If I batted for another 30 minutes or so we would have been in a fantastic position. Not good enough and hopefully I will improve in the next few games.’
De Villiers said his teammates thought he was unlucky to get out.
‘There are lots of rumours and theories going on in the change room. I didn’t personally get involved but lots of guys think that maybe I was a little bit unlucky there. I’m happy to walk off when the umpire gives me out. Silly shot, I’m better than that. I blame myself.’