'A statement of what we can achieve' - de Villiers
Since the year 2000 and before this series, South Africa had won one ODI against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and lost 12. This time around, though, they registered a maiden series victory in the country, and that, AB de Villiers said, has upped South Africa's belief in themselves. Centuries from de Villiers and Quinton de Kock were instrumental in setting up a massive total of 339 in the deciding ODI in Hambantota, and the 82-run victory handed Sri Lanka their first series defeat of the year.
"We came into this series knowing that we hadn't won one here before, so we knew that it would be a lot of hard work," de Villiers said. "Sri Lanka have been playing amazing cricket of late, winning the Asia Cup and then an away ODI series in England and they seemed to be very hungry to keep raising that bar.
"We had a few heart-to-heart sessions and hard talks in between but ultimately it comes down to a lot of hard work. Quinton today laid the foundation upfront, which allowed myself and a couple of other batsmen to express ourselves in the middle order. We were under the pump in the first 10 overs with the ball in hand and the way we came back pleased me a lot, all the hard work was worth it at the end of the day."
De Villiers said the series win showed what the team was capable of. "It sends out a statement of what we can achieve as a team, not just for everyone out there but more importantly for ourselves," de Villiers said. "In all kinds of sports you have to get the confidence going within before you can start proving people wrong or right. For me the biggest step was for us to start believing in ourselves as a team."
De Villiers himself delivered a powerhouse performance in the final ODI, smashing 108 off 71 to propel South Africa past 300, but he felt he could have done even better.
"Succeeding under the pressure that was on us, knowing that 300 would be a winning score, was probably worth more," he said. "I felt like I still had too many dot balls and was looking for boundaries too often, in a perfect world obviously I would want less. I really enjoyed the innings, it was not my best but probably in my top five."