Steyn, Philander were 'right'

Vernon Philander (Gallo Images)
Vernon Philander (Gallo Images)

Durban - Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn made the right call to bat out the final overs of the epic first Test match against India in Johannesburg, Proteas batsman AB de Villiers insisted on Monday.

The pair resisted any temptation to break the world record target of 458 in a fourth innings to win the game, and instead blocked out the final 3.1 overs to collect just eight of the 16 runs required for victory.

"A lot of people were blaming Dale and Vernon for not going for it at the end there, but I honestly believe that nine, ten and eleven should never be going for the runs," De Villiers said at the team hotel in Umhlanga.

"It's actually the top six, maybe seven and eight, to score you the runs and make sure you win the game, so if there's any responsibility to be thrown around, it's maybe to myself and Faf.

"Possibly JP and maybe a little bit on Vernon there at the end, but the minute Dale walked to the crease, we all felt like the right thing to do was to save the test match and I thought they did brilliantly well."

De Villiers revealed that Steyn, particularly, was almost inconsolable when he trudged off the Wanderers field to the ringing of boos from around the stadium.

"There was a mixture of emotions. Dale was really upset and struggled to handle it. It took Graeme and a few guys to talk him through it that he made the right decision.

"People criticising him and Vernon straight afterwards took a lot of strain, so it was up to the team to pull them through. But they're fine now."

The second Test starts in Durban on Thursday and South Africa's one-day captain felt they had gained a lot from the draw in what is a two-match series.

"I'm always the first guy to say 'go for it'," De Villiers, who made 103 in the marathon chase, said.

"But we did the right thing -- now we're in Durban it's still 0-0 and we're still in the series.

"I believe we take a lot of momentum out of it. India were in the field for the last day and a half, they had to bowl a lot of overs, so I think we will take a lot of confidence from that."

Morne Morkel, who sustained an ankle injury in Johannesburg, is a major doubt for the game with Rory Kleinveldt and Kyle Abbott drafted in as cover.

One contentious decision facing the selectors is whether to retain spinner Imran Tahir in the team after he hardly threatened in the first Test.

But De Villiers backed the 34-year-old for selection.

"It's a difficult one because Imi's bowled really well in the last few months.

"He didn’t have a great game at the Wanderers, but that's part of sport, we all go through a bad game every now and then. We know what he's capable of and it will be tempting for our decision-makers to keep him in the team."

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