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Despite defeat, Williamson hails learning experience

After all the New Zealand talk that a one-off Test would be "exciting", they've actually decided they would have preferred a few more matches after they lost at SuperSport Park.

"It's a shame, really, to just play the one Test and for that to be the decider," New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said.

Centurion became a shoot-out because of the Durban abandonment and, in a bid to strike the first blow, Williamson chose to bowl first. He saw grass on the Centurion pitch - more grass than we sometimes see at the height of the summer - and he had heard that it would be soft and spongy and would get easier for batting as the sun baked the surface. It turned out that Faf du Plessis would have done exactly the same thing, even though hindsight showed it would have been a mistake.

"It was a good toss to lose and unfortunately I won it," Williamson said, as he admitted he second-guessed himself by the end of the first session on the first day. "Naturally when they are 130 without loss, it crosses your mind. But there was enough in the wicket to have restricted them to a below-par total. History shows wickets fall in clumps and we weren't able to do that."

New Zealand's short-ball strategy was one of the reasons South Africa scored a quickly and Williamson conceded that was a strategic error. "You're right. That first session, we were a little short," he said.

That, combined with a poor track record on DRS and umpiring errors, left New Zealand having to work much harder than they did in Durban, where they dismissed South Africa for 263. But that was only the half of it. When South Africa unleashed their rejuvenated pace pack on New Zealand, it was clear there was a difference in quality between the two sides. New Zealand's openers could not cope with the moving ball, their big guns did not fire and their long tail could not delay the inevitable.

Williamson chose to look at the challenge as a lesson for New Zealand, particularly for their younger batsmen. "Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are two world-class bowlers and they have shown it. Then you throw Kagiso Rabada into the mix and on surfaces that are offering, they will find anything," Williamson said. "It's a challenge the batters were excited to come up against. In terms of experience, there is no better to move your game forward."

Henry Nicholls benefited the most from that experience with 76 in the second innings. Only Williamson himself, who scored 77 in the first, managed more runs but he is also still learning in terms of his new leadership role. "It is very enjoyable," he said. "They're a great bunch of guys and it's nice to be a part of this unit and lead the side. It's better when you are winning."

He would know. He now has a series loss and a series win to his name and was as gracious in defeat in South Africa as he was in victory in Zimbabwe, although, ultimately, he wanted a few more matches. "The better team won but it would have been great to play another game or another two."