The difficult wicket at Hamilton troubled the Proteas as they beat New Zealand in the first ODI on Sunday.
The match was delayed by more than three hours due to rain and a wet outfield, as SA claimed a four-wicket victory over the Black Caps in a reduced 34-over clash.
The subcontinent-like conditions caused problems for SA and top scorers for their side, Quinton de Kock (69) and AB de Villiers (37) went as far as saying it was the most difficult wicket they’ve batted on despite a good start by Hashim Amla and De Kock.
‘Not for a second were we in control,’ said captain De Villiers.
‘Quinton and Hash gave us a very good foundation, but once I came out to bat I felt that it was the toughest conditions I ever played in. Especially when we started losing wickets, the run rate crept up.’
De Kock, who claimed the Man of the Match award for his 69 of 64, confirmed his captain’s notions.
‘To be honest I haven’t played much Test cricket or red-ball cricket in the sub, I think I played two matches there. That was the hardest wicket I’ve played on in terms of spin. It was just the matter of adapting. The only thing I knew what to do (in the situation) was to sweep and it just came off for me. It was nice to get the team rolling.’
The Proteas captain was happy to get over the line and was very pleased with the experience his players got from playing in tough conditions, with every win adding to the side’s momentum leading up to the ICC Champions Trophy in England starting in June.
‘Experience wise it was 10 out of 10 for us; to be put under pressure like that with the bat in hand and come through,’ said De Villiers.
‘Condition wise it was 0 out of 10. I don’t think we will come across any wickets like that in the UK. I haven’t played on a wicket like that anywhere away from the subcontinent. Interesting that we did over here. You have to adapt quickly and have to look at conditions before you start play. Make sure you get the right team out there and luckily we did today.’
He continued by explaining the reasons behind SA’s struggle with the conditions and was complimentary towards the Black Caps’ efforts.
‘There was really low, sharp turn most of the time, it was very weird. Earlier on with the new ball it was not that bad, especially in the first innings, it wasn’t so tough. It’s easier to say that now after we won the game, it would have sounded like an excuse had we lost. It’s nice to be saying that now, but it was definitely tougher playing in the second innings. I didn’t see the ball turn as much when we bowled.
‘But, not to take anything away from New Zealand, they played a fantastic game, put us under a lot of pressure with the ball and never gave up. Then the ball started talking at the end of the game, which made it really difficult.
‘It’s great to start like that. It’s really important when you away from home against a team like the Black Caps, who are always very street smart. It’s important in their conditions to start well.
‘Luckily we did that today and like I said earlier, the series is by no means is over. We know it’s a big mountain to climb and must take it one step at a time. Christchurch is next and we going to assess conditions there and see what we can do.’
The Proteas will take on NZ in the second ODI at Christchurch on Wednesday.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images