SA were 'on target' to win - de Villiers

South Africa believed they were on track to take the opening honours, despite losing by 39 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern calculation

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
While farmers across the Free State welcomed the rain that fell on Wednesday night, South Africa's cricketers would not have minded if it stayed dry for a few more hours. The hosts believed they were on track to take the opening honours, despite losing by 39 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern calculation.
"It was advantage England but our run rate was right up there. I think we gave them a nice scare and showed them what we are all about as a top seven," captain AB de Villiers said.
South Africa were batting at 7.46 runs to the over, not too far behind the initial required run rate of eight an over to chase down 400. Their required run rate had climbed to 8.20 when the clouds burst but with five wickets in hand and Quinton de Kock unbeaten on a career-best 138, de Villiers was confident they would have got over the line. "We were exactly on target; spot on with our run rate. It would have been a nice finish," de Villiers said.
De Kock, the man in the middle at the time, backed himself to bat through even as cramp crept on him as his innings grew long. "I haven't scored a hundred like that in a while so it was nice to stay in. Unfortunately because of the rain, I couldn't carry the team, but I'm sure there will be many more opportunities to do that," he said. "It was touch and go but pushing to England's side. It was a bit of steep total but we would have done out best to get there, given the chance."
Eoin Morgan agreed that viewers were denied a thriller but was not drawn into whether England felt under pressure. "We would have liked to have played a full game against a strong South African side. It would have been a good ending," Morgan said.
South Africa might have believed their chance was buried when de Villiers was caught on the boundary by Ben Stokes in the 20th over, with rain already in the air. At that stage, South Africa had amassed 151 for the loss of two wickets but needed to be 169 for 2 t the end of the over to meet the DLS target. De Villiers was trying to get those other 18 runs when he was dismissed.
He admitted if he had been luckier, the result could have been different, while also hinting there were some questions over whether Stokes was in the field of play when the catch was taken because the wind had blown the boundary rope further away than where it was originally placed.
"If I batted another 30 minutes there, we would have been in a good position," de Villiers said. "There are lots of rumours of theories going on in the change room. Lots of guys think I was unlucky there. But I am happy to walk off when the umpire gives me out. It was a silly shot. I am better than that."
De Kock also shrugged it off as part of the game. "Chasing a big target, a couple of those shots are needed," he said. "It's unfortunate that it was AB and Ben Stokes decided to pluck it out the air like that. It could have gone for six and we could have been on Duckworth-Lewis on the winning side."
Perhaps South Africa really lost in the first innings, when their bowlers leaked runs against an aggressive England line-up. De Villiers was gentle on his attack, even though they started waywardly and the fifth bowler, shared between JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien, cost 93 runs. "I'm not to going to be hard on my bowlers," he said.
Morgan agreed that the Bloemfontein surface was a "bowler's graveyard" but praised Jos Buttler for a match-winning century even though he was not awarded Man of the Match. "Jos was phenomenal. He is the kind of player who can change the game," he said
The England captain had similarly praiseworthy words for the rest of his line-up, who all contributed to the team's second-highest ODI score ever. "It's important to create an environment where everybody believes they have a chance," he said. "It was a nice way to start."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent