South Africa v England, 5th ODI, Cape Town February 14, 2016

'You live for those pressure moments' - de Villiers

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If AB de Villiers was less experienced, South Africa might have lost the series to England on Sunday. If AB de Villiers was less experienced, 22 for 3 would have been a hole too deep for him to dig his team out of. If AB de Villiers was less experienced, 237 would have been too much to chase. But AB de Villiers was playing in his 200th ODI and knew exactly what to do: embrace the situation and then overcome it.

"You live for those pressure moments," de Villiers said. "Through an international career, you have ups and down but you always feel you are gong to be tested in moments like that. It has taken me years to feel comfortable and to feel like I have good composure in those situations."

De Villiers knew that after a top-order tumble South Africa needed cool heads. Luckily, he had his calmest team-mate, Hashim Amla, on hand to provide that.

"The chat between us was not to worry about the runs and to make sure we get in and not lose another wicket," he explained. "We've done it before. I felt it was really important to take it 10 runs at a time and get to a fifty-run partnership."

After 58 balls together, de Villiers and Amla had that. They'd also survived a squeeze, punished some poor balls and given themselves some breathing room. After another 48 balls, that stand had doubled and South Africa were safe. The captain's decision to drop himself one lower than the No.4 position he usually bats looked like a stroke of genius and the victory target was well within reach.

"I like to push myself a little bit down when we are chasing. I feel I handle the pressure situations well and that's why I want to be there at the end," de Villiers said. And if he is there at the end, the South Africans always feel they have a chance.

More than his ability and audacious strokeplay, it's de Villiers' attitude that keeps his countrymen and, in the space of the last week, his team-mates hopeful. With South Africa 2-0 down, de Villiers rallied his troops and asked them "to keep believing".

He admitted that in facing the prospect of a second series defeat at home in the same summer, they were in a "really dark space", but that he wanted them to snap out of it.

"I asked them to keep spirits up. I asked them to keep believing and have the faith we can come back," he said. "We showed inspirational videos here and there but we tried to focus on the basics and do the small things right and well, and created more pressure than England and then things went our way."

South Africa also made key personnel changes when they realised the precariousness of their position. They stopped relying on JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien, to operate as the fifth bowler and brought in an allrounder to give them 10 overs. They shortened their batting line-up from a specialist point of view but added two genuine finishers and seemed to find a better balance, even if it's not something they will stick with long-term.

"I like to think we haven't moved away from that seven-batsmen option," de Villiers said. "But David (Wiese) and Chris (Morris) brought a different dynamic. Change was needed after the first two ODIs and they breathed an air of confidence into the side."

Wiese has been the more consistent of the two but Morris will be remembered as the hero after his match-winning innings of 62 at the Wanderers. His knock there kept South Africa alive. It gave them the belief de Villiers sought but they still could have drowned in the wave of emotion that match swept over them. That they didn't only shows how desperate they were to finish the job.

"We took a lot of confidence from that but after an emotional game like that, it's easy to lose your fighting spirit," de Villiers said. "We were just maybe a bit more hungry than England to really nail it down."

Even so, he praised the opposition for giving South Africa a wake-up call and a warning for what they will offer in tournaments to come. "They are a fantastic one-day team," he said. "To come back from rock bottom in that 2015 World Cup. The talent was always there but mentally they had to get through a few obstacles.

"Morgs played a big part in that. Even though he didn't have a great series with the bat, he still had the right body language. He is the right man to take England forward. They will be a team to deal with in the next few years, especially at the 2017 Champions Trophy and 2019 World Cup."

If de Villiers keeps performing like he did at Newlands, so might South Africa.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Shantanu on February 17, 2016, 5:55 GMT

    I am watching cricket since 1996 and i have seen some really talented cricketers including sachin,ponting, lara inzy its difficult to pick the best in these players because there is not much to choose but now i can easily say de villiers is by far the most talented and destructive batsman i have seen till date he is too good and way above everyone.

  • vvv24 on February 16, 2016, 11:22 GMT

    @Sarangsrk, Continuation from previous comment, Pressure is not only in chasing , it depends mostly on the following parameters like pitch,opponent bowlers,required runs,non striker etc. I have few of innings of kohli chased & won for us, thats superb without doubt. But based on that we cant say he is best in chasing,kindly tell me what kohli did in chasing agst SA in SA,Eng in Eng,Aus triseries before WC,in NZ, WC agst WI & aus in semis, agst SA in home? any one win in those ? Also he missed a chance agst aus in flat adelaide deck in test, partnership with dhoni agst SA in home but failed like this lot more, thats y i said its depend lot of parameters. Most of kholi chases was with Rohit,Dhoni,Raina,Dhawan,Yuvi,sachin,Gambhir ,Sehwag etc,but AB case different check his side Amla,faf,duminy ,very rarely with miller etc. Except Amla others not in the level of above ind batsman they may played few matches but not overall great in the game. Thats y i told its depend on various parameters.

  • vvv24 on February 16, 2016, 11:09 GMT

    @Sarangsrk, Continuation from the previous comment. We should not say chasing only pressure, its depend on pitch, opponent bowlers , position, number of runs required, non striker etc. If you say kohli best in chasing ,even i have seen few innings he played in ind agst aus, agst sl in home, like that few more , its good definitely ,but based on that only we should not tell. Kindly tell what he did in chase in SA,ENG,NZ,AUS triseries,WC , last SA tour of ind ? Any one chase he scored & won ? Even he was not able to cross the line in Adelaide in test agst aus,also he put a partnership with dhoni agst SA in home not able to win the game in chase. Most of kohli chasing non strikers end was Dhoni,Raina,Rohit,Dhawan,Yuvraj ,even gambhir & sehwag in few matches,may be with sachin not sure. Check AB side with non striker most of time Amla,faf,duminy,very rarely miller. Except Amla, no match with above ind players. If AB have dhoni,rohit,dhawan,raina etc then easily he won many more in chasing.

  • vvv24 on February 16, 2016, 10:55 GMT

    @Sarangsrk, I think AB played well most of times under pressure in chasing, problem is most of times he dont have proper batsman on the other side. Even, u see the innings he played agst pak in WC,sa were 102/6, AB had steyn,abbott in the other side, cant win from that position with those guys(need more than 135 runs), also he played superb innings agst Ind in chennai again problem was SA lost most of wkts very quickly ,required runs was huge,even in that game he scored very quickly,also he have to take chances otherwise how runs will come? AB also chased and finish innings ,also in the same time played very crucial knocks in the winning game(turning point of the game), tell u few, before wc triseries agst aus sa chased 330,also in the final agst aus unbeaten half century, In nz unbeaten century and finished the game, in 2011 wc agst ind his game change the entire match,that was superb 35 balls 50+ innings. Many more like this agst pak,wi etc

  • sarangsrk on February 16, 2016, 5:10 GMT

    @CANT.TOUCH.THIS... I, for one, will never be unhappy about AB's batting genius and this 100 just again proved what he is capable of. Also, didn't say that Kohli is better than AB. That's a vague statement. I only said Kohli is the best in business when comes to chasing and AB hasn't done that well enough. Just on pure batting skills, nobody can touch AB right now but pure batting genius doesn't mean they are good in pressure situations too like Tendulkar wasn't at his best in pressure though Nobody can show a candle to Sachin on batting purity. I hope this innings can bring AB the balance required between attack and rotation to setup the chase.

  • Madhusudhan_6-Wd-4-NB-3-Wkt-2-LBW-1 on February 16, 2016, 4:15 GMT

    No one dare to run into ABDV. :-D If do, there is no way out. :-p

  • ABDVfan on February 16, 2016, 3:15 GMT

    The problem with the indian team is that it is overdependent on a very few players and dont have the batting depth , thats why xtra pressure on kohli .. While saffers on the other hand have good batting depth,genuine pace allrounders in morris and wiese and ABD has a qdk,amla,faf,miller,behardien to depend upon . In india its all dependent on kohli,rohit,dhawan..blow hot blow cold ,rahane (cant increase tempo suddenly like miller or duminy),dhoni (not the force) he used 2 be ... Surely saffers have more guys they can depend on , morever less said about indian bowling ,the better it is , outside SC it is no more good than that of SL or bangladesh which i might add puts on xtra pressure on premier indian batsmen

  • blahblah1234567 on February 15, 2016, 14:32 GMT

    kohli might be the best at chasing if his records show but abd is a different league. he is adaptable to situation and yes he scored a few low scores in which he was the victim of excellent fielding and had some fault of his own but he can rely on his teammates like morris and qdk and amla to finish the job.

  • Graemethewarrior on February 15, 2016, 14:21 GMT

    @naman thats exactly my point...when ever any of them hangs around with AB SA win ...like they did in zim tri series against aus in 330 run chase n final ...jp was able to hang around in nz 1st odi when we toured nz before wc n yesterday too amla was able to hang around imagine if amla had failed....then again in wc 2015 aganist pak no one was able to play along AB...aganist ind an unfortunate runout....ABD is not a bad chaser himself but the team gets under too much pressure when they chase n fall apart....

  • cant.touch.this on February 15, 2016, 14:20 GMT

    I seems sarangsrk is unhappy about ABs performance...don't worry man, nobody said anything about AB being better than Kohli.

    Congrats AB, really good century (almost flawless).

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