Thrilled after tough tour
By the time you read this, I would have touched down back in South Africa, after what can only be described as a highly successful tour of New Zealand – certainly, from a team point of view, if you consider the series victories in all three forms of the game, and on a personal level, following my hundred in the final test in Wellington.
I must admit that I did feel some pressure going into that test match, as I hadn’t scored many runs in the previous two games. I set high standards for myself, so there was definitely pressure. Further to that, other guys in the top six had scored runs, so I wanted to do my bit.
You know, if those guys score runs, I’m certainly very happy for them, but I can’t get too focused on what the other guys are doing and adjust my standards accordingly. I’ve just got to go on and play my own game, which is what I did in that innings of 156. Realistically, each guy is playing for his career, but I’m always mindful of my desire to want to contribute to the team. That remains the most important thing and my priority, every time I strap the pads on.
Just looking at that hundred itself, it was certainly quite tough up front, after we lost the toss. The ball was going around a bit, both off the seam and through the air. Then the disruptive weather made things even more difficult, which made playing fluently a bit of a challenge. It was a real hard-working hundred, particularly on those first two days, with limited play. I really had to graft hard, and at one point, I think my strike rate was down around 40. So, I can safely say that it was the hardest I’ve had to work to get a hundred.
Also, the New Zealand bowlers gave me very little – they are international players and they know what they are doing. So, I think their plan was to squeeze me and see where my breaking point was. I was clear, though, that once I got in, I wanted to kick on and get a big one, which fortunately I did. I was happy that I stayed disciplined and scored in what we call ‘my areas’, which are my strengths. I strayed once or twice, but most of the time I stayed within those areas.
I was also very patient, so it was a real workmanlike effort. Reaching a hundred is always a great milestone and a great feeling. But, once I got there, I was hungry to kick on and get a big score. From there, everything just clicked and I thought I scored quite fluently between 100 and 150.
From a team point of view, we were all very chuffed with coming away with a series victory, obviously, and at least there was some time for a few celebratory beers after the third test. I thought we played excellent cricket, dominated the test series, and I thought it started with the T20 internationals – that’s where the tone was set. We certainly dominated all three test matches – at times we were in trouble, but we always came back nicely, and I think that bodes well for the big series against England in July and August.
New Zealand is actually a tough place to tour, so I think that makes this series victory even more satisfying. There are a lot of variables, in terms of the types of players you face, as well as the unpredictable weather. My opinion is that they thought they could break us mentally, but in the end our skill won through.
Lastly, a word on Morne Morkel’s performance on the final day of the series – six for 23. I thought that even against Sri Lanka, he was incredibly unlucky, and finally he got his just reward. Everything just came together. He was given the new ball and started brilliantly, which set him up for a great day. I’m only sorry that his outstanding performance didn’t lead to a test victory – that would have been fitting. He bowled with great energy and that only bodes well for the England series, where we will have a potent attack, with Morne, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn, with the back-up coming from Jacques Kallis and Marchant de Lange.
That’s going to be a cracking series.