• De Villiers: We must finish them off

    Negatives were far and few between for South Africa during Tuesday’s six-wicket victory over New Zealand in the first ODI at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.

    Fast bowler Dale Steyn was economical, leg-spinner Imran Tahir fruitful, the lanky Morne Morkel quick and seamer Vernon Philander metronomic. The inexperienced Rilee Rossouw showed more promise – and captain AB de Villiers and sidekick JP Duminy were outstanding in tandem.

    Meanwhile, the dangerous Brendon McCullum was dismissed cheaply, the hard-hitting Corey Anderson was removed for a first-ball duck, wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi was denied a century – and spin bowlers Nathan McCullum and Daniel Vettori rendered collectively ineffective.

    De Villiers, however, maintained the Proteas should have dismissed the Black Caps for less than 230 – particularly after the score had slumped to 68 for five and later 156 for nine.

    ‘To get them seven or nine down at the start of the Powerplay, we expected the bowling to get them out. But I’m very happy, and can’t really fault the bowlers’ effort with them getting the New Zealanders nine down,’ said De Villiers.

    ‘But thinking of the World Cup next year, if we get teams nine wickets down in 35 overs, we need to finish them off. We ultimately played good cricket, though. I’m quite happy with this.’

    The entertaining right-hander was named Man of the Match on the back of an unbeaten 89 off just 85 deliveries, which included nine boundaries and ensured triumph with 11 deliveries to spare. De Villiers’ shot selection was superb on a pitch that proved rather sluggish.

    ‘I felt pretty good out there, it was a funny kind of wicket. I didn’t feel like I was in at any stage, but it forced me to play more conservatively. We got a couple of partnerships together and fighting back from four down to win it, that is a good thing. It is an absolute pleasure playing here,’ he added.

    Defeated captain Brendon McCullum lamented a lack of century for Ronchi, who perished to Steyn on 99. Veteran spinner Daniel Vettori returned to international cricket after a 16-month absence due to injury, while fast bowler Trent Boult’s key brace offered McCullum some minor consolation.

    ‘We were a little rusty and a little uncertain of the conditions. Boult was outstanding and is starting to flow his Test game into the shorter game. Luke was brilliant, I am disappointed for him not to get a ton. It is always good to see Dan back,’ concluded McCullum.

    The second ODI will be played at the same venue on Thursday night (SA time) – and the third will follow at Seddon Park in Hamilton 72 hours later.

    Photo: Backpagepix

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