By Wisden India staff in Chittagong
South Africa captain praises Kusal Perera, says he caught Dale Steyn by surprise by going after the bowler
“There were two areas where we lost the game. They certainly got 15 too many. We were very poor in the field; they ran twos on way too many occasions. Too many extras and we’ve been guilty of that in the past, so something we have to work on and have to get right if we’re going to do well in this tournament,” said de Villiers. “Then we lost wickets at bad times, I got out at a bad time. When it gets close like that and it’s a crunch game, you lose wickets at the wrong time and you lose the game.
“We lost our momentum towards the end, we needed to get it down to no more than eight off (Lasith) Malinga’s last over because he’s a really good death bowler, we couldn’t do that. Unfortunately, we were just not good enough on the day. I thought we were nowhere near 100% and that’s the disappointing part. I don’t mind losing games if we play at 100% but we just weren’t good enough today.”
In the event, South Africa needed 15 off the final over, bowled by Malinga, and only a last-ball six when the game was all but decided flattered the margin of defeat.
The one significant positive for South Africa was the bowling of Imran Tahir. On a pitch that did not really aid spinners significantly, in that the ball did not grip the surface, Tahir returned figures of 3 for 26 from his four overs. “He turned the game around for us with the ball in hand,” said de Villiers. “Unfortunately, the extras, the fielding wasn’t good enough today. He certainly turned it around for us, you could feel the game changing when he came on to bowl, so it’s a great weapon for us in this tournament and hopefully he keeps that form.”
A turning point in the chase was the dismissal of Albie Morkel, who followed up two cleanly hit fours by holing out to the fielder in the deep on the leg-side. “Yeah, very crucial. It was touch and go, could have been a six but that’s the game, that’s the nature of Twenty20 cricket again. One inch further and it’s a six, that’s how it goes,” said de Villiers. “He didn’t hit it in the middle. I think it comes down to execution, I think he knows he probably could have hit it better. That’s how it goes sometimes, you can’t blame one player, I thought we batted quite well for most of the night and unfortunately got out with that fifty-fifty chance going to hand and not over the boundary.”
De Villiers was fulsome in his praise for Kusal Perera, whose audacious 61 allowed Sri Lanka to post a big total despite the failure of its three most experienced cricketers. “He’s a good player, I watched him play in Sri Lanka when we toured there and I marked him as one of Sri Lanka’s better players. I think he’s got a bright future ahead, I’m not sure how old he is, but for many years to come he’ll be a dangerous player to bowl to,” said de Villiers. “I thought he played really well, put us under pressure from the word go, probably caught Dale (Steyn) by surprise with the first couple of balls, going after him. I don’t think Dale expected that.”