Rassie van der Dussen: 'A hundred overs can come down to one moment'
South Africa's centurion accepted the reality of sport after Pakistan beat them off the last ball, but he was still disappointed
Like the moment he outside edged Shaheen Shah Afridi wide of second slip and the ball beat Asif Ali's dive. Van der Dussen was on 0 at that point and went on to score an undefeated 123, his first international hundred and one ensured South Africa had something to defend against Pakistan in the Centurion ODI
Or the moment in the penultimate over when Shadab Khan skied the ball in van der Dussen's direction at deep midwicket and he made good ground to get there but could not hold on. Khan went on to correctly ask for the next ball - a waist-high full toss - to be looked at and called a no-ball - which it it was - hit four off the resultant free hit and took three off the final ball to leave Pakistan needing three runs off the last over.
Asked if he would rather score the hundred or take the catch to win a game, van der Dussen wished both were possible. "I'd do both," he said. "That catch was a half chance that could have gone our way had I got under it a little earlier. But in the twilight, I never got in a good position to catch it and I barely got a fingertip to it. A hundred overs can come down to one moment. That's not cruel. It's just sport; it's just life. As a professional sportsman you've got to be ready for that moment every time."
Van der Dussen recognised that the first ODI was a "game of fine margins," but said the toss played a bigger role than usual on the Highveld, given the time of year and that all the matches are being played as day games because of South Africa's Coronavirus-necessitated curfew. "We all know the toss plays a big role in day games here. After losing the toss we were always under pressure," he said. "The pitch gets a lot better to bat on as Imam (ul-Haq) and Babar (Azam) showed. The pitch became more true and consistent."
He stopped short of apologising to South Africa's attack, who clawed them back into the game after Azam's century, and kept them in it until the final ball but praised them for their resilience. "Credit must go to the bowlers. It's disappointing for us not to get over the line because I feel like they deserved it," van der Dussen said. "The bowlers fought brilliantly to give us a chance to come close. The way Anrich (Nortje) came in and the team rallied behind him was really positive."
Nortje took four wickets for six runs in 18 balls to give South Africa a chance before Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo fell just short of defending 19 off the last three overs. Van der Dussen thought their fielding performance, rather than batting effort, was more reflective of the overall mood of the South African camp, which is under new leadership in Temba Bavuma, who has his vote of confidence.
"It is a bit of a clean slate, with Temba coming in," van der Dussen said. "The guys are hungry to win games and to perform. That's what makes it very disappointing tonight. I've played under Temba for a long time. He is a brilliant captain and leader. The guys respect him a lot. He leads from the front and he will just ge better and better."
As for van der Dussen himself, he described reaching his first century as a "relief," after it came in trying circumstances. "I've been playing for two-and-a-half-years and had a few chances (to score a hundred) and didn't quite get there. I was relieved. As a player you want to perform under pressure and we were under pressure early," he said.
South Africa went from 34 for 0 to 44 for 3 and then 55 for 4 and that is a margin too big to satisfy van der Dussen. "Losing three wickets in a cluster is something we don't want to do. We are all aware with the ODI championship, you play for points. To lose at the end is disappointing."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent