500th ODI turns out to be must-win for Proteas

2013-11-27 00:00

AB DE VILLIERS leads the Proteas in their 500th ODI since re-admission today, meeting Pakistan in the second of three matches, at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth.

It’s a must-win for the team after a batting slump in the first match on Sunday at Newlands saw Pakistan take the ascendancy with a 23-run win after setting a moderate 219 to chase down.

Besides pride, the Proteas have yet to lose a home series against Pakistan, but only a fool will bet against the visitors breaking the mould.

De Villiers is under no illusion that his side is under pressure and nothing less than a strong win will keep the fans and sceptics happy.

“Yes, we are under pressure and Pakistan will come hard at us as they will want to create their own bit of history by putting one over us in our back yard,” he said. “We know we under-performed and let matters slip in the first match and we desperately want to level matters.”

The Proteas will want to head into the third and final ODI clash — on Saturday at SuperSport Park — with all to play for and not merely going through the motions in what could be a dead rubber.

“Of course we want to win the series and we have made it tough for ourselves by being one-nil down,” he said.

“It’s only a three-match contest and it will call on tremendous character from the team if they pull through today and go on to win the series.”

It’s been said all season, but the Proteas are still looking for the correct combinations ahead of next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh and the World Cup in Australia/New Zealand in 2015.

The fact of the matter is the Proteas need to start winning more frequently in this format, whether under pressure or not.

“If we come through and win the series, it will mean a lot to us as a team, showing character and what we can do when we are up against things,” said de Villiers.

“It’s been said before, but it will stand us in good stead ahead of the two major tournaments in the next two years.”

Playing at St George’s today should suit the Proteas who will still have fresh memories of the pitches offered in the UAE. Port Elizabeth is generally a low and slow deck and, having passed the test on such wickets with a 4-1 win in the five-match series in the UAE, De Villiers is quietly confident.

“We are used to such wickets and hope the track holds up, playing evenly throughout both innings,” he said.

“We don’t want the toss to be a major advantage.”

Today’s match is a day game, starting at 10 am. The weatherman has predicted early morning rain, which should clear. According to locals, play will start on time and all will run to schedule.

• In their 499 ODI matches to date, the Proteas have won 307, with six ties.

This is a win percentage of 61,5%, with 13 no results.

There have been nine coaches — Mike Procter, Bob Woolmer, Ray Jennings, Graham Ford, Eric Simons, Corrie van Zyl, Mickey Arthur, Gary Kirsten and Russell Domingo; and 12 captains — Clive Rice, Kepler Wessels, Hansie Cronje, Shaun Pollock, Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher, Hashim Amla, Nicky Boje and Faf du Plessis.

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