AFPWellington, New ZealandFeb 25, 2017, 02.27 PM
South African hero AB de Villiers admitted to nerves and battling a fear of failure as he produced a record-setting innings that led to a colossal win over New Zealand on Saturday.
Only a "deep, deep hunger to succeed," helped him overcome his emotions to lead his side to a 159-run win in the third one-day international in Wellington to go 2-1 up in the five-match series.
De Villiers' 85 off 80 balls pulled South Africa out of a middle-order slump during a match-changing innings in which he became the fastest players to reach 9,000 ODI runs.
South Africa eventually reached 271 for eight in their 50 overs before Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo led a bowling attack that rolled New Zealand for 112 in 32.2 overs.
"I was nervous walking out especially when we started losing a few wickets. Looking up at the scoreboard I thought 'oh my word we're looking at 160-180 if we get bowled out' which I don't think would have been enough," he said.
"There are lots of doubts walking out no matter what your record is.
"But I had a feeling it was going to be important to bat through and to be there at the end."
As South Africa produced an emphatic response after losing to New Zealand in the second match on Wednesday, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was left to wonder how his side could be outsmarted in home conditions.
"They certainly deserved the win, they outplayed us," he said.
"They were able to get a bit of seam movement. Not only do you get a bit of assistance but you do have to put the ball in the right area and they were able to do that. They bowled very well."
South Africa were keen to bat first when they won the toss and while they had their jitters de Villiers had support from Quinton de Kock (68) to give their innings some respectability.
New Zealand's reply started disastrously with openers Tom Latham (nought) and Dean Brownlie (two) gone inside three overs.
Kane Williamson, on four, should have joined them but Hashim Amla failed to grasp a regulation catch at first slip.
It was a short-lived reprieve, however, as Williamson struggled to 23 when he was bowled by Phehlukwayo and Ross Taylor (18) went lbw to Pretorius in the following over.
Colin de Grandhomme's unbeaten 34 and Jimmy Neesham's 13 where the only other scores in double figures as Pretorius took three for five off 32 deliveries and Phehlukwayo finished with two for 12 off 30 balls.
De Villiers milestone
On a wicket that looked full of runs, South African opener Amla was unable to settle and went early for seven.
But de Kock had no problems as he posted his fifth successive half century following innings of 55 and 109 against Sri Lanka and then 69 and 57 in the first two matches of this five-game series.
His 68 in Wellington came off 70 deliveries and included two sixes and six fours.
Faf du Plessis offered some support with 36 but otherwise there was little resistance until de Villiers set up the big finish supported by Wayne Parnell who added 35 at the tail.
When de Villiers clouted Lockie Ferguson to the boundary off the fifth ball he faced he became the fastest batsman to total 9,000 ODI runs reaching the milestone in his 205th innings.
The previous record was 228 held by India's Sourav Ganguly.
Of the 18 batsmen in the 9,000-plus club, de Villiers also has the best average of 54.04 and best strike rate of 100.00.