A happy Proteas camp
Hello once again from New Zealand and greetings from a happy Proteas camp. We got the start we wanted in the three-match one-day series, winning the first game by six wickets in Wellington.
Of even greater satisfaction was getting to play a significant role in that victory, making 66 not out from 49 balls and seeing the side home with captain AB de Villiers. I can’t say more than I’m really, really chuffed – firstly, to beat the Kiwis, because there was a lot more emotion attached to this game taking into account our World Cup quarterfinal defeat to them a year ago. That was also an acrimonious defeat, with plenty of words said, so I’ve been waiting a long time to have another go at them. It was just a great evening for me.
I could see before I went into bat that it was going to be a stressful run chase. First, there was the three early wickets (Hashim Amla, Greame Smith and Jacques Kallis), and then I could see how difficult AB and JP Duminy were finding the conditions. JP, in particular, really struggled and credit must go to him that he hung in there to make 46 and stay with AB when he clearly wasn’t at his best. That was a real lesson for me.
By the time I got in there was still a lot to do. I just tried to bring the same energy I bring to any innings – running plenty of ones and twos, and just looking to nick the odd boundary. AB set us an initial target just to try and reduce the required run rate and I knew that, because he was in, I needed to make a play and be aggressive.
Getting the run rate down was key and we managed to do that with a couple of boundaries. I thought that we both had just so much intensity during our partnership and we put the New Zealand bowlers under pressure. By doing that, the run rate came down nicely and we could just play. The Kiwis were then forced to attack and that played into our hands as there were a few more open spaces for boundaries.
Even though the stats show it to be one of my more aggressive innings for the Proteas, I think it was more symptomatic of the situation. As with any innings, my first task was to calculate risk. When I come in at number six, all the fielders are usually out, so singles and twos are usually my focus, along with the odd boundary. But this was a little different, as the New Zealanders saw me as the last recognised batsman, so they attacked me, which opened things up a bit. Then the powerplay came along and AB and I targeted a few of the bowlers and that worked out really well. So, yes, it was a bit more of an aggressive innings, but that’s because it was high-risk and the situation asked for it.
I was expecting more verbal abuse from the Kiwi, taking into account what happened in that World Cup game when I got into an altercation with a few of them. Even though they had a few words to say up front when I first came in, it died down because of the match situation. It’s always easier to put pressure on batsmen with words if the batsmen are the ones under pressure. However, as AB and I scored more freely, it got a bit quieter because we put them under pressure.
So, a great start to the series and exactly what we wanted, particularly in a short series of just three matches. However, we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us and we’re expecting the Kiwis to come hard at us in the next two games.
Looking forward to it.