SA's much-needed win boosts confidence
South Africa's win in the third and final one-day international against New Zealand was a much-needed boost for the young side, said stand-in skipper Faf du Plessis after his team avoided a series whitewash in Potchefstroom on Friday.
“We needed this as a team – especially as a young team – because a win like this gives us that little bit of extra confidence," Du Plessis said after Ryan McLaren's six off the last ball took them over the line.
“I'm very happy and relieved it went our way, although I didn't think we played that well and there's still lots of room for improvement.”
Du Plessis said the team had, once again, got themselves into a comfortable winning position and then lost too many cheap wickets which put the pressure back on the less experienced players.
“The New Zealanders are good at squeezing, and they making you feel it, but it's also good for our guys to feel that pressure in the middle and to learn from it,” he said.
“If we play like that against Pakistan in the ODIs, we'll lose easily, but the positive and most important thing to take from this series is that the young guys were given opportunities.”
While the injuries to the senior players had been regrettable, Du Plessis felt the exposure of more players to international cricket held the team in good stead.
“We had five new guys in this series alone which is unusual but at least if any of our players get injured in a big tournament – like the Champions Trophy in England in June – we now have guys who have played at that level under pressure before.”
Du Plessis relished his role as captain and had tried to soak up as much experience as he possibly could during his temporary tenure.
“The captain has a tough job and I have a lot of respect for AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith who has been doing it for so many years,” he said.
“Being captain was a fantastic thing for me to do and I thoroughly enjoyed it as it keeps your mind busy all the time. Having that extra responsibility gave me the opportunity to learn more and more – very quickly.”
New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum signed off on a positive note and said they would leave South Africa more knowledgeable on how to compete at the highest level.
“It would have been lovely to have won the series 3-0 but it was a great game of cricket and a fantastic game to be involved in,” McCullum said after coming so close to another victory.
“We walk away pretty pleased with the series (2-1) under our belt and sometimes you come out on the wrong side of these games but we played well and were beaten by a team which deserved to win after an innings like the one Graeme Smith (116) played.”
Overall, he said the team had shown character to bounce back from their test series drubbing and would take home a lot of invaluable experience.
“The ODI series was an amazing win for us and we made significant strides going forward,” he said.
“We now know we're capable of competing against the best so we need to make sure we do it on a more consistent basis.”
He admitted his test side “were blown off the park” by a team at the top of their game and said they had taken some important lessons from that series.
“To see the top team in action, at its peak, and to know how far we need to improve in that format of the game is a good learning opportunity for us," he said.
“We've enjoyed the tour and we had amazing crowds throughout, receiving good support.
“South Africa is a great place to tour and we'll leave here a better team for it and certainly richer for the experience.”