De Villiers hints at long-term captaincy
AB de Villiers has dropped another hint that he is willing to stay on as South Africa's long-term Test captain, after his new-look team completed an impressive 280-run victory in the fourth and final Test at Centurion.
De Villiers, who himself made a pair in the match and has averaged just 9.00 in his two Tests since taking over from Hashim Amla as captain in the aftermath of the second Test at Cape Town, praised the character shown by his players s they secured their first Test victory in ten matches since January 2015.
"The guys were very fired up for this Test match," de Villiers said during the post-match presentations. "It's been a while since we won a Test match so we are obviously very excited about that and we will enjoy the celebrations afterwards now."
South Africa's side featured five changes from the seven-wicket defeat in Johannesburg, in which they conceded an insurmountable 2-0 series deficit, and de Villiers singled out one of the new faces, debutant opener Stephen Cook, for particular praise, following his maiden century in the first innings. However, the star of the show was unequivocally Kagiso Rabada, whose match figures of 13 for 144 were the second-best in South Africa's Test history.
"We are very excited about some of the guys coming through and taking their opportunities with both hands," de Villiers said. "Obviously Kagiso had a fantastic Test match, it doesn't come around every day that you take 13 wickets in a Test so we are very proud of him, and obviously Temba [Bavuma] and Cooky have played their roles in this Test match, and Temba obviously in the whole series.
"It's a great team performance, coming back from 2-0 against a very solid England team, and we showed a lot of character and hopefully we can build on this now and in the future."
Asked about his own future in Test cricket, amid series-long speculation about his workload, de Villiers implied that he was ready to commit to the leadership, with South Africa's next Test engagement coming at home against New Zealand in August.
"Yeah, I've really enjoyed it," he said. "I'm keen to move forward and the team is in a really good space, with a few guys coming through and enjoying their cricket. It's a good place to be in, and it's a bright future for us.
"We've got a long way to go, it's a bit of a rebuilding phase, we've lost quite a few players in the last few years, but the guys who've come through have shown a lot of character and shown us that they can take the team forward. I think there's a bright future and we are looking forward to everything that's going to come our way, and all the challenges."
Rabada followed up his first-innings figures of 7 for 112 with 6 for 32 second time around, including a destructive final-morning spell of 4 for 4 in 21 balls to bundle England out before the drinks break, and was deservedly named Man of the Match.
"It was a bit up and down so the key was to hit the deck, bowl in a relatively good area and believe that you'd get your rewards," he said. "It's great to be in this environment, it's what I've always wanted to do, and it's great to play against a quality cricket team."
"To take seven wickets this morning in the time that we did probably wasn't part of my thinking in bed last night," de Villiers admitted. "We were prepared to go to 5.30pm today and guts it out. They have a few match-winners in their team so we were wary of that, it wasn't an impossible run-chase."
Alastair Cook, England's captain, conceded his side had been second-best throughout the match.
"It's been a disappointing five days, we haven't quite been on it, pretty much the whole five days," he said. "We've hung in there without ever being able to get on top of South Africa. Credit to them, they played well, but we weren't quite at the races.
"Trevor [Bayliss, the coach] just described it as a limp batting performance, which probably sums it up perfectly."