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REVENGE is sweet but success is sweeter.
That is how the Proteas dressing room is feeling right now. After having to take it on the chin so many times before, most notably after the shock World Cup quarter-final defeat to the very-same New Zealand, South Africa restored some of their lost pride with a thrilling three-run victory here at Eden Park.
A three-match Twenty20 series may not carry the kudos of knockout World Cup game, but it was the manner in which it was achieved that would give the Proteas the greatest satisfaction. New Zealand had the series-deciding Twenty20 won for all money. South Africa were staring down the nine count, and big Jesse Ryder was delivering body blow after body blow. Set 166 to win, the home side required just 16 to win from 23 balls for the knockout punch to land. Only this time it was South Africa who stood up off the canvas, dusted themselves off, and hit back with some telling rearguard strikes.
In fact, South Africa claimed three wickets in seven balls – eight if Marchant de Lange’s last-ball no-ball is counted – which included Ryder’s scalp for a well-played 52.
The Kiwis could add only three runs to the scoreboard in this period. It was enough to take the Proteas across the line in a game they should never have won, and in turn, New Zealand should never have lost.
“We were put under some pressure towards the end – some of it by ourselves – and we didn’t respond well. It’s disappointing,” skipper Brendon McCullum said.
“We’ve talked a lot about making sure when we get ourselves in situations like that where we can finish games off that we do it clinically and with the ruthlessness we showed throughout the Zimbabwe series. Tonight was bitterly disappointing and we are going to have to pick ourselves up pretty quickly.”
Needless to say Proteas captain AB de Villiers was elated. It was his first Twenty20 series at the helm, but the skipper was not basking in personal glory.
It was about the collective for De Villiers, and the magic phrase of the “processes” being executed. He even shied away from labelling the Kiwi meltdown a “choke” despite it being naturally tempting considering the amount of criticism and abuse his team have endured after similar collapses.
“All I was doing was making sure we were focusing on the processes and not the results by keeping our standards high,” he said. “We were 11 guys who played together as a team. I believe in the boys and they really responded tonight. I wanted them to take risks at the back end, and they did, which worked in our favour. It shows that you can give the opposing team credit for doing well. It’s not necessarily that New Zealand choked like we’ve been labelled many times before. Sometimes the opposition can play well and Marchant and Johan (Botha) bowled unbelievably well.”
McCullum, though, was not ducking and diving. He knew his team had blown a major opportunity to secure a rare series victory over the Proteas. In fact, he was gutted at the after-match press conference and could not hide his feelings when the inevitable “choke” question was posed to him.
“Don’t say that word,” he quipped. “I guess when you look at where we were in the game and where the game ended up, you’d say that we faulted. We came under pressure and we didn’t measure up to it. You can use whatever words you want but we didn’t get the job done and that’s the cold hard facts of it. Whether it was a choke or not, or taking the gas or whether it’s not standing up in pressure situations, use whatever word you want, we didn’t win.” – Cape Times