De Villiers changes his tune after defeat
When South Africa departed for their World Cup recce last month, AB de Villiers did not specifically ask his team to bat better than their opposition or to bowl better. Those things were a given. What he wanted was for them to field like demons in order to give themselves an extra edge at the World Cup.
After beating New Zealand and testing the bench strength in three T20s, South Africa took on Australia's line-up and put their stand-in captain down. Not once, not twice, not three times, but four times and de Villiers admitted his demand may have been excessive.
"Maybe I made a mistake mentioning it in the media and putting too much emphasis on it," he said. "I put a bit of pressure on the guys maybe."
George Bailey should have been caught by David Miller at point when he was on 2, by Imran Tahir in his follow-through three balls later, by Vernon Philander at mid-on when he was on 38 and by Farhaan Behardien at midwicket when he was on 47. Instead, Bailey went on to top-score with 70 and only Tahir could be forgiven for his mistake.
"I've got no problem with dropped catches, I've done it myself but I want us to create chances. I'm more disappointed about the catches we pulled out of," de Villiers said. "The catches where I want us to get a hand on and we don't even get a hand on - that's when I really get frustrated. I will never blame a bowler for dropping a catch in your follow through. It's difficult to judge the pace."
De Villiers knows the catches were only a small symptom of the why the match was actually lost: in equal measure as both bowling and batting errors accounting for an under-par performance. "We got our rhythm really wrong," de Villiers said.
South Africa sent down 12 wides and the usually reliable Ryan McLaren conceded seven runs an over. Then they collapsed to 76 for 4 before de Villiers lead the recovery with Miller.
Their 126-run stand put the chase back on track and importantly for Miller gave him his first half-century in 10 innings, but then there was a second slump. Six wickets fell for 20 runs and South Africa were out of a match de Villiers had started to believe they could win.
"There was proof at the end that it was really easy to chase it down but we lost too many wickets," he said. "We didn't have that ruthlessness to pull it off."
So now de Villiers will shift the focus off the frills like fielding and go back to the primary purpose of South Africa's visit: to win. "I feel really bitter because I don't like losing games," de Villiers said. "I don't want us to go back home and think of what we could have done differently. I want us to fix it right now and go one-all in this series and still stay in this series; still win this series. There is no such thing of we want to learn from our mistakes, we are here to win."