AB de Villiers feels that the Proteas are ready for the ICC Champions Trophy after completing a 3-2 series win against New Zealand.
The Proteas had a chance to bury some bad memories after they were knocked out by New Zealand in the semi-final of the 2015 World Cup at Eden Park. They did so in spectacular fashion, claiming a series win with a six-wicket victory against the Kiwis at the same ground.
‘There’s a bit of emotion in us winning the series, especially chasing under pressure. We’ll enjoy the victory. It doesn’t make it right after we lost the semi-final. That will never change,’ de Villiers said.
‘But as we sit here now, we’ve just won a game against New Zealand in a final at Eden Park, so it’s a great feeling. We’ve come a long way since that semi-final.’
De Villiers believes his side are prepared for the Champions Trophy, despite an ODI series against England still to come before the tournament begins.
‘I felt ready before this tour, but this was a really good test for us. I truly believe we are ready,’ he said. ‘It will be silly for me to say yes we are going to win it even though I believe that in my heart, but no one is going to make silly statements like that. We are going there to win and I think we are ready, so if all things go well I think we will be there at the end of the tournament.’
After the Black Caps were skittled out for 149, the Proteas put themselves under pressure which saw them lose four wickets for 88 runs after only 22 overs. With pressure starting to build, Faf du Plessis (51 off 90 balls) and David Miller (45 off 35 balls) took their side home.
‘Tonight was a great way to show everyone we can handle pressure, that we can cross the line in tight games with tricky totals, and a really good bowling opposition who squeezes you very hard,’ he said.
‘All our batters showed a lot of positivity, which was great. In the past, we fell into traps of being conservative and being stuck in a bubble when the pressure is on. We hit ourselves out of that with great body language and good skill throughout the innings. It’s a great step in the right direction.’
Rabada, who finished with figures of 3-25, also gave his thoughts on South Africa’s hunt for Champions Trophy glory.
‘We are going in the right direction. If the Champions Trophy was tomorrow we would be ready but, when we get to England, we will be apart from each other for quite a while,’ he said.
‘We will get back together when it’s closer to the time and recuperate and then we need to get going from where we left off. That’s going to be important.’
The 21-year-old showed great maturity by separating the different learning experiences that SA have picked up during their consecutive series wins.
‘It was nice to beat Sri Lanka 5-0. It shows a clinical performance and attention to detail and then this one was really nitty gritty. Both of them have their pros and both have their own feelings,’ he said.
‘Beating a team 5-0 shows you are going into every game not being complacent, paying attention to the small things, and professionalism. In a tight series, there’s more pressure and we handled the pressure really well. Competition keeps you on your toes, so I enjoy both.’
The Proteas will travel to the UK in May to face England in a three-match ODI series before the ICC Champions Trophy kicks off in June.
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