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Cricket | South Africa

AB de Villiers © Reuters

AB on the England semifinal

South Africa face England in a crucial Champions Trophy semifinal at the Oval in London on Wednesday.

AB de Villiers faced the media in the pre-match press conference and this is what he had to say.

Q: If the match is rained out, England will progress because they've topped the group. Do you think that's a fair system?
AB: Yes. Whoever finishes top of the log worked for their points, and that's just how it is. It's something that's out of our control. Like I said in the previous game, there was a lot of bad weather around in Cardiff, but it's out of our control. We're just here to play the game, so we'll do the same thing tomorrow.

Q: How is Dale (Steyn) today? We saw him have a run around and a few stretches?
AB: We're just managing his workload at the moment. We know he's played a lot of cricket of late. He's got a few niggles, which is very worrying, but we're going to do all we can to get him on the park tomorrow. He's close to 100 per cent, he's running around. We didn't want to run him too much today because we knew he's one of the best in the world and he's got the skill to just rock up and do the business, so we're just making sure that he gets that extra day of rest, and like you saw, he's working on his rehab and then a few little stretch exercises and just running around making sure we give him the best chance to play tomorrow.

Q: Is he a massive factor for you against England? They regard him so highly, has a good record against England since last year. Is it psychologically important that he plays against England do you think?
AB: I don't think it's psychologically a big factor. He's obviously one of the best in the world, and he's good against any team in any format. It would be great to have him in the team. I don't think it's got anything to do with mental games, anything like that. We're still a very good ODI unit. We've won games without him and with him. It's a semifinal. It's a big knockout game, and there will be a lot of pressure around, a lot of hype. Not having him on the side will be big for us, but then again, like I said, we're playing good cricket and we're confident we can beat England without Dale.

Q: What do you make of the England team?
AB: They play very good cricket. Obviously they're in their home conditions, they know it very well. I think they've always got good plans, they're a good unit. I'll pretty much keep it short and sweet. We're well aware of the fact that they can beat any team on any day, as well. They're a world-class team and so are we, so it's going to be a great game. Looking forward to it.

Q: What do you make of the fact that the ball has not swung a lot in England this time of the year?
AB: I don't think it's much to do with the swing really in England, I think there's more movement off the deck, and I think we're playing on a new wicket tomorrow. There should be a bit of movement again. Whoever is going to bowl first might have a bit of advantage for the first few overs, but then again, it might slow up in the afternoon. So we'll just go back to the drawing board and have a look where we can do really well.

Q: The 'chokers' tag will always be around at these big events. Is it something you deal with as a team?
AB: Look, we've had two big games, the last two games we played, and we didn't choke there. Obviously that's a good start. We owned up to it before. It's something that's been around for a while. I believe all teams choke in certain situations. It's just that we somehow managed to get that tag behind our names. Unless we win this tournament, people will say you're chokers, so no matter what happens, it's something we've dealt with. I think we're very comfortable with it in the team. We know what we're capable of as a team, we're in a very good space. We're not thinking of stuff like that. But even though in the same breath it's not something that really bothers us at the moment.

Q: The last time England and South Africa met in a semifinal was in the World Cup in '92, the famous “22 off one ball” match. Did you watch that? You'd have been quite young obviously.
AB: It's not something we're thinking about, but I watched that game. It's a long time ago, and it was quite sad actually. I think I was crying that night, similar to what happened in the '99 World Cup.

Q: AB, what do you think of Colin Ingram since he started opening?
AB: I think he just really got to know his game well over the last few years. He's a bit of a rock, someone I really believe in up front, up in the order. He's got a really good mind about him. He thinks about the game in a really mature way. I'm really proud of what he's achieved in the last few years, and I'm looking to push on his buttons again tomorrow.

Q: If you look at your record against England over the last couple years in one-day cricket it's not very good, and England have had the upper hand. Would it be fair to say that you are the underdogs tomorrow?
AB: It's quite simple that they're playing in front of the home crowd in the home conditions, so they must be favourites. We drew one all last time we played here in this series, or two all, sorry, it was a draw. We played really good cricket, and I felt like we could have won that series, which is a positive to me. I believe we had two big crunch games in the last two games which might give us a lot of confidence, and I believe we can beat them. But yeah, if they're playing in front of the home crowd, I think all the pressure is on them. We'll make sure we do the basics well, like I said before, and if things go our way we'll end up on top.

Q: There is a suggestion out there that England are doing something funny with the ball. Is that something that concerns you or do you leave it to the umpires to sort that out?
AB: If they are doing something funny with the ball, then it's definitely a concern, yes, but we've got no proof of that. Look, they seem to get it to reverse a bit quicker than the rest of the teams so maybe they've just got really good skill in their bowlers. We've tried, as well. I think all teams try to do that, and we haven't really managed to succeed in that, but we'll try that again tomorrow and see if our bowlers can find that skill to reverse the ball. It's something that the umpires and the ICC will probably look into why England and some of the other teams might get it to reverse quicker. All that is really not up to me to decide or to comment on that. But if there is something funny happening, then it's definitely a concern, yes.


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