'I feel I let the team down'
AB de Villiers admitted he was hugely disappointed to have missed out on a maiden Test century in front of his home crowd, but still believed that South Africa were close to a par score on a two-paced pitch. By the close of play, they had reached 247 for 9 in their first innings, after a late collapse in which six wickets fell for 60 runs.
"It was very disappointing," said de Villiers, whose dismissal for 92 triggered the collapse. "People say I'm just a youngster and it doesn't matter - I'll get another chance - but I would have liked my hundred. It was definitely a good innings, because the wicket wasn't easy to score on, so I'm very happy with the knock."
Though he stood in as an opener in the second innings at the Wanderers, after Graeme Smith had suffered concussion, it was something of a surprise to see de Villiers coming out to bat at No. 1 in this match, especially seeing as Smith and Herschelle Gibbs had compiled a triple-century partnership during the last Test at Centurion, against West Indies last summer. "Perhaps they were giving me what I want," he suggested. "Opening the batting, with the new ball coming on to the bat. It's what I like."
England won the toss and inserted the South Africans on what appeared to be a bowlers' wicket, but such was the purity of de Villiers strokeplay that they were soon forced to change their lines of attack. "I was hitting the ball nicely from the word go," he admitted. "England went more defensive when I got to my 50."
He ought to have got to a hundred as well, but for the first time in his career, a touch of nervousness surfaced as he closed in on three figures. "I've only got myself to blame," he said. "You've got to be patient in those situations and push through, but I got a bit nervous and too impatient, and I feel I let the team down a bit as well. But 92 is not too bad."
de Villiers, who plays his domestic cricket for the Centurion-based Titans franchise, was buoyed by a vocal home crowd, which included his parents and both his elder brothers. "Everyone was there except for my girlfriend, Gerrida, who's on a university camp," he said. "They won't be too disappointed, though. A ninety is enough for them."
As for the match situation, de Villiers remained confident that South Africa were on course for a series-levelling victory. "A score of 300 would have been nice," he admitted, "but the wicket will only get worse as the game goes on. The Wanderers track did more, but this one does just enough to get the nick. It's a bit up-and-down and two-paced as well, so the chances will be there, and if our fielding is up to standard, we'll take the catches."
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo. He has been following England's tour of South Africa.