New Zealand in SA
Ontong relishes Proteas return
Pietermaritzburg - Proteas all-rounder Justin Ontong was happy to be back in the national fold after his call-up on Tuesday, just hours before he led the South Africa 'A' team during their 24-run loss to New Zealand in Pietermaritzburg.
The Cape Cobras captain was drafted into the Twenty20 squad for the three-match series starting on Friday after AB de Villiers withdrew due to exhaustion.
"In the end it was a bit of a surprise, but I’m glad to be back," Ontong said.
"I was part of the T20 World Cup squad, so I thought I must still be there in the mix somewhere because there was no real reason to be dropped.
"Obviously the AB decision caught us by surprise and I’m now back in. I need to take this chance and make the most of it."
Ontong, who did not play any games at the global event in Sri Lanka, played the last of his 10 T20 internationals against England during September and has since been in solid form for his franchise.
However, he was among several SA 'A' batsmen to disappoint on Tuesday when they were restricted to just 116 for nine in pursuit of a modest 141 victory target against the Black Caps.
"We did very well in the bowling department, but the batting was very disappointing," he conceded.
"I think it’s probably a bit of nerves, especially with the younger guys, which led to those soft dismissals.
"A lot of these guys played their first game today for the SA 'A' team.
"I feel like if we put some partnerships up front there, we could have won this game."
Ontong, who made five, defended Aaron Phangiso, the slow left-armer that was named in the Proteas squad for the New Zealand series, who was expensive with none for 25 in his three overs.
"This was his first outing today and it could be different on Friday," he said.
"That’s the nature of the game, so you can’t read too much into it."
For New Zealand, there was an impressive first appearance for fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan after his three early wickets set them on their way to victory.
Another debutant Colin Munro top-scored with 39 off 26 deliveries to help boost their total.
"I really enjoyed it. It was just good to get out there and get some of the nerves out before Friday," McClenaghan said.
McClenaghan (3-19) felt it was key for the young players to show their worth.
"This is a new group of players and it’s really going to bond us together even more," McClenaghan said
"It just sends a really good message to the whole group that the boys coming in can do a job.
"It helps the senior guys and gives them a bit more faith in us that we’re coming in and still do a job."