Proteas skipper AB de Villiers believes he has the best top order in the world at his disposal, and is confident of fighting back to make it 3-2.
A thrilling finale now awaits in the early hours of Saturday morning, as Martin Guptill destroyed the Proteas bowling attack with his and his side’s third-highest individual ODI score.
All three of New Zealand’s highest individual efforts belong to him, and the 180 he scored on Wednesday in Hamilton, which came off 138 balls and included 15 fours and 11 sixes, allowed the hosts to stroll to a seven-wicket victory with five overs to spare – this on the same track that saw the Proteas win in a low-scoring match in the first ODI.
De Villiers was in sublime touch himself, finding an extra gear to score 72 off 59 balls to lift them to 279-8, which he believed was enough to make it 3-1 and win the series. However, he was lost for words as to how Guptill was able to produce that kind of innings, especially after coming back from an injury layoff.
‘It was a fantastic knock; it was tough for us. It was difficult to set fields to really good hitting. Some of the boundaries were soft, but all in all a lot of credit must go to him,’ De Villiers said.
‘I thought it was enough, because of what happened in the first game. The pitch was exploding in the first game, but it didn’t happen in the fourth. We just came unstuck by a better team today.’
After winning 12 matches on the trot, the Proteas have now lost two of three. They will be particularly concerned with the form of JP Duminy, who isn’t contributing significantly enough at No 5, while David Miller has also been blowing hot and cold at No 6. Duminy hasn’t scored a fifty since the whitewash series against Australia in October last year.
De Villiers insists that these are the right guys to have in the side in pressure matches, even going as far as to say that his side are the best batting lineup in the world.
‘We always want our players in good form. They’re world-class players and they will come to the party when it matters most. We all go through patches, but luckily we bat deep so there’s no need to panic. I believe in our guys and I believe our top order is the best in the world,’ De Villiers insisted.
‘The game is done and dusted now,’ he continued. ‘There’s a big final to play and there’s a lot at stake. It’s a big pressure game and it would be great for us to come through at Eden Park. We won the T20 there and I think we’ve played some fantastic cricket in this series, but we haven’t really hit out straps yet, so hopefully it will happen in this match.
‘I wasn’t happy with our skill set tonight and there wasn’t that spark in the field, so we need to get our act together for the final ODI.’
Photo: Phil Walter/Gallo Images