De Villiers impressed by Proteas backup bowlers

Ryan McLaren celebrates the wicket of Misbah-ul-Haq of Pakistan for 38 runs during the first one-day international match between South Africa and Pakistan in Bloemfontein. (Duif du Toit, Gallo)

Ryan McLaren celebrates the wicket of Misbah-ul-Haq of Pakistan for 38 runs during the first one-day international match between South Africa and Pakistan in Bloemfontein. (Duif du Toit, Gallo)

“All four seamers bowled really well as a unit and they had a maturity about them,” De Villiers said after his team's 125-run victory in the first of five Momentum One Day Internationals against Pakistan.

“They had clear plans and bowled to their set fields. The way they stood up and showed their capability was very pleasing.”

In the absence of Dale Steyn, who had been travelling in the United States, and Morne Morkel, who was still recovering from a hamstring injury, there was a worry the South African attack lacked firepower and punch.

All doubts were cast aside when, defending a total of 315, Rory Kleinveldt took a career best four for 22 and Ryan McLaren impressed with his three for 19.

“It's probably one of the most pleasing things of all seeing Ryan perform so well,” De Villiers said. “I've always seen him as a world-class bowler going back to our high school days. "He's a real fighter and he's tough to play against, making it difficult to get the ball away. He looks comfortable at this level and hopefully he can keep up the consistency.”

De Villiers was equally delighted by the performance of his batting partner Colin Ingram, who scored his second century against Pakistan and his second in Bloemfontein. “To see Colin grab his opportunity after being dropped, and to come back with a bang was great as we always knew he had that in him," he said.

After Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla had set the platform with a 72-run opening stand, De Villiers and Ingram came to the crease within a couple of overs of each other.

Ingram was first to reach his half-century, followed shortly afterwards by De Villiers, whose fifty came at a run a ball after boundaries had dried up for a period of nearly seven overs.

“We had a great energy batting together and our 120-run partnership was a game-changer,” the ODI skipper said. “We hustled between the wickets and both played the spinners really well.

"It was easy for me to bat with Colin and he impressed me with his all-round play.”

Ingram's third career hundred came off 101 balls and included nine boundaries. He was unbeaten on 105 at the end of South Africa's innings. “It's been a long journey and I've had to work very hard on my game,” Ingram said after being in and out of the side over the last three years.

“It's a very competitive side and if you're competing with the likes of Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, it's always going to be tough.

"So I'm just chuffed that when the team needs me, I'm ready to go.”

Recalling his first century against Zimbabwe in 2010 in Bloemfontein, Ingram attributed his success at the ground to the size – it being the biggest ground in the country. “I feel like there is a lot of space and it allows you to place your twos and fours.

"In my training, I've tried to emphasise that and work out ways to counter Pakistan's excellent spin attack.”

Ingram, who grew up on a Protea farm outside Port Elizabeth and admitted to reading Farmer's Weekly on the team bus, said he had also worked hard on his fitness over the last few years. “I know a lot of young guys work on their fitness but it has also given me more mental strength,” he said. “I've tweaked my technique here and there and looked to take on a few different options – like looking to sweep more when I'm facing spin and generally trying to create as many options as I can.” – Sapa



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