England playing well but not unbeatable, says De Villiers
South African skipper AB de Villiers is confident that his side can make a strong comeback to win the 5-match ODI series against England despite being 2-0 down heading into the third match in Centurion on Tuesday.
While the 31-year-old conceded that Morgan’s men were playing well, he added that the results could have been different had his side made good use of the half-chances that came their way.
"England are a good side. They are playing some good cricket at the moment, they look confident but they are not unbeatable," de Villiers said, as reported by ESPNCricinfo after the Port Elizabeth loss.
Couldn’t convert those half chances: De Villiers
"We had a couple of opportunities in both the games we played and I know it sounds like I am singing the same song from the Test matches but it's true, it's a matter of getting it right and taking our opportunities.”
De Villiers was referring to the Proteas’ 39-run loss by the D/L method in the first ODI where they put up a good show during their run chase of 400, before a couple of late dismissals, including a wrongly adjudged call against JP Duminy, meant that England came out on top based on the D/L par score.
At Port Elizabeth, South Africa looked set for a total close to 300 but ended up well short at 262 after De Villiers’ wicket derailed their innings.
“In Bloemfontein we had a chance to get it right, I knew that rain was going to come and we didn't get the timing right. Today again, we had the opportunity to take them down and unfortunately, it didn't happen that way.
“I thought 280 was par and I said 300 would have been nice. We've got the potential in our batting line-up to get scores like that. Unfortunately, I got out at a bad time and a couple of dismissals later we were in trouble."
De Villiers also seemed to point the fingers at the match umpires from the 2nd ODI as he felt some of the decisions that could have gone either way had a huge impact on the result.
"It's a fine line, one or two things went his way. Same with Moeen [Ali] and same with [Ben] Stokes.
“Had those things gone a little bit differently, you never know what would have happened. Those 50-50 calls and 50-50 moments in the game where you have to play well to win the game, we didn't play well," he said.
De Villiers, Morgan united in praise for Buttler
Keeping aside his disappointment at being dropped from the English Test side in favour of Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler has been in scintillating form in ODIs with scores of 116*, 105 and 48* in his past three innings.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, who was picked up by reigning champions of the IPL, Mumbai Indians, for a fee of £385,000, drew praise from his skipper Eoin Morgan as well as De Villiers, who called him an outstanding player.
"He is an outstanding player. He didn't surprise me. He played it to perfection. Just where I thought it was a good chance for us to get a couple of dot balls, he went for the boundary. He outplayed my thinking," De Villiers said.
Coming to bat at 176/4, with England requiring 87 off 82 balls, Buttler counter-attacked brilliantly scoring 48 runs off just 28 balls, which also included three sixes off the 46th over bowled by Imran Tahir, to seal the victory for his side from a tight situation. Morgan credited Buttler for his approach but admitted that he was surprised by the same.
"The game was in the balance until that over," Morgan said. "He just took the game by the scruff of the neck, which top-class players do."
Looking forward to the next ODI, De Villiers said that South Africa needed to focus on the next match alone and not look too ahead.
"If we were two-nil up, I would have given you the same answer. It's very important to look at the next ODI and to take it one small step at a time," he said.
"I can't help but think, we have got to win three games in a row to win this series. But that's the fact of the matter.
“In situations like this, whether you are two-nil up or two-nil down, you have to take a small step. The next game is important for us."