Chester-le-street: South Africa captain AB de Villiers said his side's three-wicket win over reigning champions England was an encouraging sign ahead of this month's World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
On a generally slow Chester-le-Street pitch taking turn - the kind of surface that may well confront them in the global tournament - South Africa restricted England to 118 for 7. Spinners Johan Botha and Robin Peterson took four wickets between them, as South Africa provided the latest evidence they are no longer solely reliant on pace bowling. But Dale Steyn, arguably the world's best fast bowler, was named Man of the Match for a return of 1 for 13 in four overs - all bowled in one-over spells.
Saturday's win saw South Africa, the world's top-ranked Twenty20 side, take a 1-0 lead in a three-match series ahead of Monday's clash in Manchester. De Villiers, asked if victory boded well for the team's World Twenty20 chances, replied: "Definitely, it's very similar to what we are expecting."
"There was a little bit of turn, it was quite slowish. It was really good preparation. The bowlers had really clear plans and I'm proud of the way they came out. They made my job really easy out there."
South Africa, who failed to make the semi-finals when England won the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean two years ago, then suffered a top order collapse as they slumped to 29 for 3. But an unbroken stand of 90 in 91 deliveries between veteran allrounder Jacques Kallis (48 not out) and JP Duminy (47 not out) saw the Proteas home with an over to spare.
Kallis was returning after being rested from the preceding drawn one-day series between the two countries and an admiring de Villiers said of the world-class allrounder: "Jacques, coming back from a bit of a break, made it look really easy, with JP obviously really playing well at the other end."
"It's great to have Jacques back - he obviously offers something with the ball and I think he bowled really well today again."
Steyn, explaining his approach to bowling in 'micro spells', said: "I spoke to AB briefly about how he wanted to use me. The thing is it's only six balls, you've got to be sure what lines and lengths you are going to bowl to, what fields you are going to bowl to and then you've just got to make sure you hit your straps. Just straight lines today was the key thing. It was quite difficult for batters to hit over the top."
"There weren't a lot of big hits that went for six or one-bounce four. I felt it was one of those wickets I summed up quite quickly with the ball. Straight away from my first over I got a feeling as to where I should bowl, spread the message and I think everybody else followed."
South Africa rested in-form batsman Hashim Amla, who during the preceding Test and one-day series against England scored a mammoth combined 817 runs at 116.71 and de Villiers said they would try to give match practice to as many members of their World Twenty20 squad a possible before heading to Sri Lanka.
"The ideal situation would be to give every batter a bat and all the bowlers a bowl," de Villiers said. "It doesn't always happen that way but I believe this squad is mature and experienced enough to know what they are capable of going into the World Cup (World Twenty20). All the guys seem to be confident and if we keep winning, obviously everyone feeds off that and that's the most important thing."