Sri Lanka v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Pallekele July 25, 2013

We win games when squeezed - De Villiers

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Last year in Sri Lanka, AB de Villiers became the first South Africa captain to own up to choking in high pressure limited-overs games. He used the C word liberally both before and after the tournament as though he'd been instructed to publicly embrace the tag as a means of overcoming the team's mental woes in major tournaments.

Ten months later, de Villiers is asserting the opposite about his side's ability to triumph when much is at stake. South Africa will lose the series if they lose another match, but in bilateral affairs, pressure brings out their best, de Villiers said.

"I believe it's the other way around in this series," he said. "When we get squeezed into a corner, we win games. We wake up a bit late in ODI series especially. We lose the first one and the second one maybe, and then all of a sudden, 'woah, let's wake up and start playing cricket now'. If we do the basics well for 100 overs we'll definitely win. I believe in the boys."

De Villiers was also intent on distancing his side from a woeful record in Sri Lanka, despite having lost their first two matches in the series. South Africa have lost their last 11 matches in the country against the hosts, with only one victory to their name. The last ODI series in 2004 was a whitewash, though only JP Duminy and Robin Peterson of the current squad appeared for South Africa then.

"I just want to set one thing clear because I see it in TV screens all over - the fact that we've lost 11 games in a row here. I haven't been part of that. I've played two games and these are my first two ODIs that I've ever played in this country. I don't really care about what happened in the last nine games," said De Villiers "People seem to make a big thing of it. I'm not upset about it and I know it's part of our history, but this team doesn't need the luggage of the past nine games. All these guys are on their first tour here apart from a guy like JP, who made his debut here last time. We'd like to change that. We're 2-0 down now and still alive in this series."

De Villiers also called for more application from his batsmen, who between them are yet to produce a score in excess of 30 in the series. Faced with two tall chases - the second of which was revised via a Duckworth-Lewis calculation - South Africa lost too many wickets before the 20th over to mount a serious challenge.

"It's not really because we were being too aggressive," he said. "We struggled to adapt to the change of the Powerplays. We did really well in the Powerplay, even though we lost a wicket in the first over in both games, we seemed to recover really well. After the Powerplay was done and the field spread, we just lost wickets out of nowhere.

"I think there was a lack of awareness from our side - just awareness that we are playing 50-over cricket here, not 20 overs. Maybe for the first 20 overs we need to have more of a Test-match mindset, and from 10 to 20 to really get partnerships going and get stuck into the conditions and all the bowlers. Maybe we'll give them one spell and look at their second spell to attack. We haven't really had the opportunity to look at that yet, because we haven't batted for that long."

South Africa have lost eight of their 15 wickets this series to spin, but de Villiers was confident his side had hatched a plan to neutralise the threat, particularly that of Rangana Herath who is the leading wicket-taker in the series so far, with five dismissals at 8.20.

"We've been a bit lackadaisical when it comes to playing Herath and we've tried to hit him too square," De Villiers said. "We all know he doesn't get a lot of bounce. He's a skiddy kind of bowler, so we'll try to play him straighter, which we did well in South Africa. He's definitely handier in his own conditions and maybe he gets a bit more turn. But he's not a massive threat for us."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on July 26, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    abv is poor as a captain period and the team we have the less said the better,never seen an SA team this poor its quite annoying

  • dummy4fb on July 26, 2013, 6:13 GMT

    As a fellow South African, it pains me to say this. As much as I respect AB as a batsman, I don't think he's been particularly good as a captain. To be honest, I think we need Graeme Smith back. In the last few years our ODI batting lineup has been more fragile than it's ever been. One crack usually causes the entire lineup to shatter. The experimenting has been going on for too long, and nobody knows their true place in the lineup anymore. I hope something changes soon, but I won't be holding my breath.

  • King-Cobra on July 26, 2013, 5:43 GMT

    @Street_Hawk, Spot on mate! SA only know to 'choke' in a crunch situation!! Now please don't come after me for that, instead roll back that history book.

  • dummy4fb on July 26, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    "WAKE UP AND START PLAYING CRICKET " as though earlier they were playing some other sport. That's ridiculous .

  • dummy4fb on July 26, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    Blade runner your view is pretty dumb. To be a good team you have to master all conditions , specially if you have a choker label and a 11 lose record against the opposition. Also if you have to meet similar but arguably better opposition in the near future you would obviously take the series very seriously as you are playing for your country. True SA is famous for some of the dumbest mistakes in cricket but you should give the SA planners the credit of at least an average IQ.

  • ChaitsChants on July 26, 2013, 3:21 GMT

    Interesting! AB De Villiers has said that most of the players are playing in Sri Lanka for the first time. Almost 8 to 9 players including AB from this team were part of last T20 World cup held in Sri Lanka. So they are not that unfamilier with the conditions and pitches as they are pretending. Agreed formats are different, but not making difference. SA probably need to focus on their strengths rather than going by Sri Lankas way.

  • khiladisher on July 26, 2013, 2:51 GMT

    @Blade Runner-Its a second string Proteas side that has visited Lanka,still I fancy them to win 3-2.They play great in crunch games at bilateral series,even if both these sides have a poor record at ICC Major events.

  • Perera32 on July 26, 2013, 1:42 GMT

    @gtr800: Buddy, you said Sri Lankan wickets are " two paced and extremely slow", I don't agree with that. Maybe the RPS is slow but not two paced, Sangakkara's innings of 160+ showed that, if you spend time in the middle and get used to the pitch then you can score big. If it was two paced, I doubt he'd have passed 50. Oh dear you said, if bowlers get rewarded for bowling at the stumps in SL, they get wickets in Sri Lanka, well thats the point of bowling in cricket not only in Sri lanka but in every other country. Herath doesn't get much turn, even in SL at times, but it's his accuracy which has claimed him wickets especially LBW and Bowled. What about the penultimate over in the last match from Malinga to miller, only 1 run came off it. Had it gone for 8+ runs, then SA might have had a good chance of winning. If you think Malinga is only good vs Average players, then you lack cricket knowledge mate. It's clear SA struggle with spin, just look at Dilshan's bowling figure this series.

  • Street_Hawk on July 26, 2013, 1:17 GMT

    really AB, really??? As far as I know, you guys choke when you are squeezed

  • cheguramana on July 26, 2013, 0:25 GMT

    I don't understand why ABD took up wicket keeping full time. He was developing into the next great batsman for South Africa. I don't think he's quite able to cope with the triple pressures of batting, wicket keeping and captaincy. He's shud not be making these silly comments abt opposition bowlers. No point cribbing abt conditions or pitches either. He shud just accept that they have not measured upto the challenge so far. I am a huge fan of his batting talent. Hope he can just make the best of that ! (Hope he is not getting inspired by Dhoni. Dhoni is unusual, he came up the ranks as a wicketkeeper/batsman. Captanicy came later and he's unique in cricket history for being such a huge success as a wicketkeeper/batsman/captain).

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