South Africa v Sri Lanka, World Cup 2015 warm-ups, Christchurch February 9, 2015

'We were counting down every run' - Abbott

Kyle Abbott: "It was so good to get some competitive cricket out of a warm-up game which can drift and become quite boring" © AFP

The purpose of a warm-up is nothing more than to get blood flowing, limbs lose and minds focused. Winning and losing is secondary to sorting out patterns of play except when pressure threatens to pull that pattern out of shape. Like when South Africa were cruising along at 116 for 0 at the halfway stage in their chase of 224, the rain came, Sri Lanka found a way in and another way in and another. Suddenly an old enemy crept up on South Africa and their natural reaction was to try and beat it even though it did not matter. 

"We came into the warm-up games with a fairly open mind to get guys out in the middle but as soon as the game got to a tight stage, it was amazing how you could feel the change room shift. We were counting down every run," Kyle Abbott said. "It was so good to get some competitive cricket out of a warm-up game which can drift and become quite boring. The guys were behind every run and we wanted to win it as much as any other game." 

Faf du Plessis watched Rangana Herath spin his way into the top order as they rushed to reach the total so he slowed down. He knew Lasith Malinga lurked but he also knew the Sri Lankan talisman had not played a game in five months and his attempts at the yorker had not worked in his first spell. He waited for the chance to take advantage of that. 

With 10 runs taken off the first three balls of Malinga's penultimate over, du Plessis broke the back of the last part of the chase. He did not last to see its end but left it to Rilee Rossouw, a man with a point to prove after a patchy start to his career, to end off. Malinga abandoned his effort to aim at the toes, something Abbott admitted he would not have done at the end and South Africa made a small statement about their ability to deal with pressure. 

"I still haven't seen a well executed yorker get hit for six. That is the go-to ball at the end," Abbott said. "It's a great ball when you are under pressure and a great ball to get a guy off strike." 

South Africa did not execute too many of those themselves in challenging conditions in which they struggled to keep warm, nevermind actually warm-up. "The weather wasn't great, it wasn't comfortable especially in the first spells into the wind," Abbott said. 

Gusts blew at around 60kph for most of the day which tested South Africa in conditions they may face later in the tournament, like in Wellington, and Abbott said the lessons learnt will be stored away for future use. "You can find yourself trying to run in too hard because you feel like you are not getting to the crease but you have to realise that are not going to bowl 130 or 140kph into the wind. It is going to slow you down," he said. 

"When you have one guy bowling into the wind, the guy bowling down wind becomes more important because he is the guy the batsman will target. So bowling in partnerships is more important. The guys bowling downwind might not be happy going at four runs an over, he needs to look at going at two or three so that even if the pressure does release on one end, it evens itself out." And pressure, as South Africa are discovering, can bring both the best and the worst out of competitive sportsmen.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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