Few players enjoy batting under pressure as much as Proteas captain AB de Villiers, who again showed his nerves of steel on Sunday.
De Villiers scored an unbeaten 101 in the deciding ODI against England at Newlands to help South Africa win the series 3-2. It marked a remarkable comeback by the home side after going 2-0 down, but they fought back in dramatic fashion to ensure the tour didn’t end in complete disaster.
De Villiers and Hashim Amla (59) shared a 125-run partnership to lay the foundation for the win after South Africa were reeling at 22-3. The captain admitted that his 24th century, achieved in his 200th ODI, was among his best.
‘It’s right up there,’ De Villiers said of his knock after the game. ‘You live for those pressure moments. I think through your career you have ups and downs but you always feel like you are going to be tested in moments like that.
‘It’s taken me years to feel comfortable in pressure situations like that and I’m starting to feel like I really have good composure in those kind of situations. That is something I’m really proud of, the composure I had because the game was on the line with three wickets down early on.’
England certainly had a hand in their own downfall after squandering a 2-0 lead, and while there wasn’t much to choose between the two sides De Villiers felt his team wanted it more.
‘Probably hunger [was the difference between the two sides],’ he said. ‘We showed that at SuperSport Park and it just didn’t go away. So I think we were maybe just a bit more hungry than England to really nail it down and create history by coming back from 2-0 down. Whether that is a record or not, in my eye it’s something really special.
‘The believe was still there after the first two ODIs. I din’t feel we were that far off the ball. If things happened differently we could have won the first two matches, that’s what I felt, but we still had to come back from a very difficult position.’
This was only the third time a team had come from 2-0 down to win a five-match series, but South Africa are now the only team who’s done it twice.
One issue that looks to have been solved during this series is the perceived lack of all-rounders. Chris Morris and David Wiese both played together in the last two games and while Morris was the hero with the bat in the fourth ODI at the Wanderers, Wiese batted well with De Villiers on Sunday to ensure they reached the target quite comfortably.
‘We haven’t moved away from the seven batsman option, it’s always something to look at in different situations, different series that you play against different opposition. We haven’t thrown that out the window but David and Chris definitely brought a different dynamic. Change was needed after the first two games. They really breathed a fresh air of confidence into the side,’ De Villiers said.
On the decision to send Rilee Rossouw in at No 4 ahead of himself, De Villiers said: ‘I like to push myself a little bit down [the order] when we’re chasing. I feel that I handle the pressure situations well, that is why I want to be there at the end, I really do, as often as possible.
‘Rilee is a very positive player that can take the game away from the opposition. He loves the new ball, he’s batted at three very often in his career at domestic level. We want to push him up there and just give him the freedom to just go and play his game. I have no doubt in my mind it’s going to come off soon.’