Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller and Dwaine Pretorius are all past their 32nd birthdays and it was that experience that gave them the clarity of knowing exactly what they had to do as South Africa chased down a record score in the first T20 against India in Delhi on Thursday night.
South Africa’s previous highest chase was 208/2 against the West Indies at the Wanderers in 2007/8, in the first World T20 tournament. So when India piled on 211/4, their highest ever score against the Proteas, the pressure was on.
But Pretorius, born March 29 1989, was promoted to No.3 and dominated the powerplay by lashing 29 off 13 balls, before India fought back with a couple of wickets and South Africa needed 120 to win off the last nine overs. Miller, born June 10 1989, then took over, taking the pressure off a struggling Van der Dussen, with the in-form IPL winner blasting 64 not out off 31 deliveries.
Van der Dussen, who was born on February 7 1989, exploded in the latter stages to finish with a fabulous 75 not out off just 46 balls as the Proteas won with five balls to spare.
“Dwaine was brilliant, he had clear instructions to put India under pressure and he did that superbly. He’s an intimidating figure and we know how far he can hit the ball,” Van der Dussen said.
“But it took a while for me to get the pace of the pitch, I was a bit slow with 30 off 31 balls. But David batted really well to get me through that tough patch in the middle.
“I knew if I could just get one or two shots away then the momentum would shift. We had clear plans and communicated well, the lesson is to trust the game-plan and have a clear mind regardless of your score and how many balls faced.
“We trusted each other too and we knew that if David and I were there at the end then we would be close and would probably get over the line. I’m glad we managed to do it in the end,” Van der Dussen said.
The Central Gauteng Lions star, who now averages 42 in T20 internationals with a strike-rate of 132, recognised however that what happened in the first match of the series probably won’t work every time. It was just as well Van der Dussen was dropped on 29 in the 16th over because that would have brought Tristan Stubbs, exciting but a real baby at this level, in to try and get 63 runs from 28 balls.
“I would like to adapt a little quicker to conditions, you can’t always put yourself under pressure and catch up. It also puts the team under pressure,” Van der Dussen acknowledged.
“I will be looking at my first 15-20 balls to try and get away quicker.”
The second T20 is in Cuttack on Sunday from 3.30pm.