De Villiers insists that tourists won't allow party to fizzle


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The Independent Online

Four years ago, South Africa arrived at this point like men who were intent on breaking the record for the planet's longest party. They had won the Test series and frankly the one-day games could take care of themselves.

The upshot was a 4-0 hammering (the fifth game being rained off) which never went close to wiping the smiles off their faces. They had done what they came to do.

There will be none of that this time when the NatWest Series begins at Sophia Gardens today. Although it was noticeable that in the solitary one-day warm-up match on Wednesday, the only two members from the Test side who played were the teetotallers, Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir, the tourists have finished their celebrations.

AB De Villiers, who has taken over as limited-overs captain from Graeme Smith, said: "The only difference I can see right now is that we're a totally different unit. We've got a lot of new players who have come in."

Out from the Test team are likely to go Alviro Petersen, Jacques Kallis, Jacques Rudolph, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir. In come Faf du Plessis (a brilliant fielder and decent batsman), all rounder Justin Ontong, big-hitting Albie Morkel, left-arm spinner Robin Peterson and left-arm pacemen Wayne Parnell and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

Like England, South Africa's twin objectives are the Champions Trophy in this country next year and the World Cup in Australia in 2015. Like the England team, they have been found wanting in both competitions.

De Villiers took over from Smith at the start of the year since when the side have won six of their eight matches, the losses to Sri Lanka coming after the series was won.

Under the guidance of their coach, Gary Kirsten, who masterminded India's World Cup win last year, they clearly intend to play an attacking brand of cricket. "I'd like to think of us as a team that has done fairly well under pressure, so when we are put under pressure this series we will be looking to attack that's for sure," said De Villiers. "We're a very good fielding unit, with a lot of youngsters, just a busy cricket team who win cricket games under pressure."

De Villiers has the burden of being the wicketkeeper as well as the captain, which is not an easy one to carry. He will not be wary of asking for the support of Smith who led the side in 149 matches and is continuing as a player. "I'd be stupid not to use him," said De Villiers. "He doesn't get too involved, I've got to go find him which is nice, but he'll be around."

De Villiers was not above imitating Smith in having just the slightest dig at England. "In England it moves around a bit with the two new balls," he said. "You can't just go out there and hit every ball for six. You will be three or four down quickly. The reason why they're playing conservatively up front is because they're a batter light."

It will not have the drama of the Test series but it should be fun.