Johannesburg - After Pakistan levelled the One Day Series in Centurion on Friday, South Africa’s ODI skipper AB de Villiers said he relished the challenge when the two sides meet again in the third match in Johannesburg on Sunday.
“Both teams give their best but sometimes one team doesn’t pitch up. Pakistan didn’t pitch in Bloemfontein and we didn’t pitch up tonight,” said De Villiers after his team’s six wicket defeat in Centurion on Friday night.
“If both teams pitch up on Sunday, it will be a very exciting game and hopefully we’ll come out on top.”
The Proteas won the first ODI in Bloemfontein by 125 runs and with three matches still to play, the contest is wide open, but De Villiers said he was confident his team would come out on top, playing in their own backyard.
“We’re still favourites playing at home, even though Pakistan are a dangerous ODI team. On a bouncy and pacey track in Johannesburg, I believe we are still favourites to win the match.
“Whether we bat or bowl first, we need to assess and adapt to the conditions more quickly."
He said for his side to go four down within eight overs was unacceptable but paid credit to Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Irfan, for his four crucial wickets, and to Pakistani captain Misbah-ul-Haq, who was unbeaten on 57 at the end of the game.
“Irfan bowled really well and got nice bounce but, more importantly, he had the ability to get the breakthroughs at the right time,” De Villiers said.
“We didn’t get any partnerships going except for Farhaan Behardien (58), who played well and batted with Robin Peterson (44) towards the end. They gave us an opportunity but it was not enough. It was a 250-par wicket and we got nowhere close to that.”
De Villiers said his bowlers started well but lost their way a bit in the middle and despite all their attempts, they could not break the final partnership which won the match for Pakistan.
“We had them four down and we were right in the game. We knew if we could get the fifth and sixth wickets we would be into the tail, but Misbah played too well - he didn’t even give us a sniff.
“I tried anything and everything - I put slips in, I put gullies in, I brought the fielders up, I tried Robin Peterson, I tried all my seamers at different angles, from both sides of the wicket and from both sides of the ground - but absolutely nothing worked.“
De Villiers said his team consisted of a good mix of players but it was just poor application on the night.
“Cricket is all about those moments which win you the game, and getting us four down in the first eight overs was the big game breaker.
“We’ve got a good batting line up - that’s not the problem. We just didn’t assess very well today and too many guys were nicking off to their bowlers, especially Irfan. We didn’t get any partnerships going but we’ll be aiming to get that going on Sunday.”
The Pakistani skipper was upbeat about his side’s victory and said they needed to maintain the momentum and continue improving in every game.
“Victory is always good, especially when we’re having a hard time on tour. So we really needed the win but the challenge is for us to keep up the pressure on the opposition,” he said.
Irfan, who used Misbah as his translator, said he had bowled according to the instructions he had received from his coach and captain and had just stuck to his plan.
The tallest man in cricket, however, was a doubtful starter for Sunday after he strained his hamstring in the field. He would be assessed again before the start of Sunday’s third ODI at the Wanderers.