Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, Dubai October 21, 2013

De Villiers calls for character

AB de Villiers has called for a show of character from South Africa's Test side as they attempt to protect an away record that has stretched more than seven years. South Africa have not lost a series on the road since 2006 and need to win in Dubai to ensure that statistic remains intact.

With a five-day turnaround between Tests, de Villiers said it is too short to rethink strategies so the troubleshooting has to be done on their mindset instead. "We were one or two out of ten [in Abu Dhabi] compared to the standard we set and we didn't play the big moments well," de Villiers said. "There aren't a lot of positives from the first Test so we need a lot of self-belief. There's not a lot of time. You can't run around for a month and hope to get better. Technical changes can't happen but we need a fresh mindset."

Tactically, there are some things South Africa can improve on. Their bowlers started off employing the wrong length - too short instead of a touch fuller - and their batsmen appeared fragile against the Pakistan attack. Although the spinners shared seven wickets between them, de Villiers thought it was the seamers South Africa were surprisingly disappointing against.

"They did the damage by getting big wickets up front. And there were a couple of soft dismissals as well, including mine. Who knows, if I hadn't got run-out in the first innings, Hashim and I could still be batting."

Pakistan's attack out-thought South Africa by what de Villiers called "clever plans," and he thinks South Africa can counter those with a different approach. They had a short-leg in place from early on in the innings in case of an edge from extra bounce off from Mohammad Irfan's end. He was brought into play to see the end of Alviro Petersen. They also placed a man in an unconventional position behind square leg for JP Duminy's sweep shot and he was caught in the trap.

Part of the preparation for this Test has been about finding solutions for strategies such as those. "We are finding ways to fix the problems and we are going to try and get it right in the second Test," he said. "We haven't played cricket like that in a long time. We know if we don't play to your full potential, there are teams that are going to beat us and if we do perform to our full potential we will come out on top."

He said conditions, although unfamiliar, were not a good enough reason for South Africa's below par-performance. "We just didn't adapt quickly enough but there are no excuses at this level not to get used to things," he said. "We would have loved a series before this or maybe a few more warm-up games but the best teams in the world believe they are ready no matter what."

And so, whether they have done enough practice or not, de Villiers has asked the team to go into the second Test believing they are ready, that they will be able to perform to the highest level and that they will be able to walk away with a win. "We dipped big time in the last Test. and letting ourselves down which is the thing that hurt the most," he said. "We have to go in with the attitude that we are not going to lose this series."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent