South Africa v Sri Lanka , 3rd ODI, Bloemfontein January 17, 2012

We showed a lot of maturity - de Villiers


In the space of a week, AB de Villiers has gone from captaining a team for the first time at any level, to winning an international series with two matches to spare. He'd be forgiven for thinking leadership is one of the easiest things he has been asked to do. But he doesn't.

Of all the players in the South African side over the past year, de Villiers developed the most. From a rough and tumble, schoolboy-style youngster as recently as during the 2011 World Cup, he has become a reasoning, sensible man whom anyone would want to call their captain. He also showed the ability to motivate, guide, think creatively and strategise, which are essential qualities for a leader of men.

"I am very proud of the boys. We took it one game at a time. I would like to think we will keep playing this kind of cricket," de Villiers said after the victory in Bloemfontein, which gave South Africa a 3-0 lead in the series against Sri Lanka. "We showed a lot of maturity, and a lot of young guys that came in showed experience. We didn't expect it to be 3-nil but we are very happy that it is."

South Africa managed to stay one step ahead of Sri Lanka even as the visitors took large strides towards improvement. The closest South Africa came to being caught was in Bloemfontein, but de Villiers lead the charge in a pressure situation to win despite wet weather. "The game was in the balance a little bit but I'm glad we got there in the end," he said.

One of South Africa's successful tactics was the rotation of the No. 4 position between de Villiers, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis. In the third ODI, du Plessis came up the order and made his highest ODI score, 72, and de Villiers said they would keep the position fluid. "I warned you guys that we are going to mix it up a little bit," he joked. "I needed to bat down the order because it was important to get partnerships in the front."

du Plessis said he was "grateful" to get the opportunity to spend more time in the middle. "In the previous two games, I got two or three overs at the end so it was nice to go out and express myself." He also expressed himself in the field, where he effected a run-out to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara and saved lots of runs at point.

de Villiers also lauded a "much better" fielding effort by South Africa. Although they dropped four chances and missed five run-out opportunities, they caught four batsmen and ran out three others. de Villiers, however, said they had to improve and were not "a perfect team".

With the series won, de Villiers said the focus would be on "4-nil first" in Kimberley on Friday, because thoughts turn to a whitewash. It will also provide an opportunity to test new combinations, something South Africa started in Bloemfontein but can apply with more freedom in the remaining two fixtures.

"We could have one or two bowlers coming in but the batting will stay more or less the same," de Villiers said. South Africa had a new-look top three in Bloemfontein and de Villiers said they were likely to stick with that for the next two matches. "Colin [Ingram] deserves another chance at No. 3."

de Villiers also indicated that out-of-form batsman Graeme Smith would stay in the side, despite mounting criticism. Smith's last ODI hundred was during the Champions Tophy in 2009 and he has managed only one half-century in his previous 15 matches. With Alviro Petersen in good form, talk is rife that Smith will dropped once Hashim Amla returns from paternity leave.

"His [Smith's] confidence is not very high at the moment but I am expecting runs very soon," de Villiers said. "We know he is under pressure and we have to remember that no-one is invincible. Poor form is around the corner for all of us. But he is one of those big match players and he is old enough and experienced enough to know what to do. All we can do is support him."

Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe served South Africa well but two of them may make way for Vernon Philander and Wayne Parnell in the remaining games against Sri Lanka. Philander was brought into the squad after an injury to Rory Kleinveldt, but Parnell has been part of the group from the outset but has yet to get a look in.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 21, 2012, 0:36 GMT

    my srilanka team for australia tour..............tharanga,dilshan,sangakkara,chandimal,mahela,mathews.jeevan mendis/ajantha mendis,thisara perara,nuwan kulesekara,malinga............this is perfect srilanka squad..we dont want dilhara fernando,thirimane,chamara silva,...i wish thisara perara to play as a opener like sanath jeyasuriya and wish mahela to play as a opener sometime.srilanka should find some good fast bowlers who can ball 150km with length...proud to be srilankan fans....

  • Cricket on January 20, 2012, 17:42 GMT

    Good bloke, AB. The best thing that he got right was getting rid of Botha and bringing Robin Petersen in and trying to make better use of JP Duminy. Smith was unneccesarily trying to protect Botha against Robin.

  • Brian on January 19, 2012, 18:06 GMT

    Well put Clint_ZA, it's hard to answer some of these comments without swearing, I despair at the bizarre assumptions, observations and accusations that get posted - I'm glad that most Sri Lankan fans seem quite magnanimous and level-headed but I don't know how some of these posts get through.

  • Lalith on January 19, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    Dilshan had no clue about the rain or D/L would come into play, but we heard Sanga was screaming in the latter overs..."Boys..stop the boundaries!". Guess what?...Bad luck Sri Lanka

  • Dummy4 on January 19, 2012, 13:12 GMT

    Well done to the proteas, and for all the people saying south africa wouldnt have won had it not been for the rain hush!

    we had 2 prime batsmen at the crease and being south african you know when your team is gong to win, though sri lanka made us cringe at times SA would have been victors, i for one would have loved to see the end not the DL method but hey history is history on to the next 2 games...i sense atleast a 4-1 but a 5-0 is a big possibility.

    Amandla Boys!

  • vivekanand on January 19, 2012, 12:23 GMT

    i wonder why so many people are blaming kosala kulsekara.. he was the top scorer in the infamous 43 all out in first odi.. he scored 19 of them.. he deserve to play for lanka.. plessis, too, dint contributed much till 3rd match.. and then he was promoted up the order and scored his best odi knock.. who knows, kosala proves to be the plessis for lanka.. :)

  • Supeshala on January 19, 2012, 10:01 GMT

    What ? Maturity ? You guys won because of rain and that stupid duckworth/ luvis crap . If there is a proper game SL will win.

  • Mark on January 19, 2012, 9:54 GMT

    Maybe it is good SA are on the winning side of DL for a change. Cricket is unpredictable and as such, although SA seemed they may not win if the game went the full stretch, we must remember anything can happen. AB and Morkel could have set the field on fire, Steyn has also proved to be a handy batsman. We cannot take it for granted either side would have won had DL not decided. The point is, SL came back well, SA fought well and in the end, the SA won and we cannot change that.

  • Dummy4 on January 19, 2012, 9:42 GMT

    In a netral wicket Sri Lanka can beat SA 6 out of 10 times I would say.They won here thanks to weather.I cant understand what Kosala Kulasekara`s role in the team ! He seem like a friend of a Politician

  • Sinhhalaya on January 19, 2012, 9:18 GMT

    Essentially self-serving comments here from SAf and SL fans. Totally predictable. AB is doing well. Lets congratulate him for his current success. Let's give him a chance and judge his success maybe after 2015. Its too early now. He is also statistically the no. 2 ODI batter and is a class act. Dilshan on the other hand appears a man out of his depth. His one notable action after gaining the captaincy was to lose the earring and the stripes in his beard. In this day and age, that is the least important thing and shows how shallow his perception is. Cannot blame him totally though. Sri Lanka is going through some tough times, not just on the cricket field. Don't feel he is getting the needed support from the "senior" players and VC Mathews. SLC needs to take some tough decisions immediately. Let's see if they have the cojones.

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