South Africa one-day skipper AB de Villiers says he is ‘fit and fresh’ and relishing the prospect of leading the Proteas to one-day success this summer.
De Villiers is taking a break from Test cricket but he will skipper South Africa in their ICC Champions Trophy campaign next month, following the three-match Royal London One-Day Series against England which starts at Headingley next Wednesday.
And the tourists’ warm-up for that international action continues with Sunday’s 50-over meeting with Northants Steelbacks at the County Ground (start 11am).
De Villiers missed South Africa’s first warm-up on Friday against Sussex Sharks due to ‘respiratory tract infection’, but could feature against Northants, and he is looking forward to a busy few weeks.
“It’s a very nice way for us to limber up and get ready for a big one-day tournament,” said de Villiers ahead of the trip to Northampton.
“I haven’t won one of these trophies in my career, so I’m pretty desperate to win one, and we’ll do anything we can to get out on top.
“We know these tournaments are very competitive – there are eight teams that want to win it and can win it.
“But we do think we’ve got a very good squad here. I’ve got a good feeling about this one.
“But first things first, we want to win the series against England, a team that’s been playing very good one-day cricket in their own country.
“They’ve done really well to come back from the 2015 World Cup. They’re obviously a very talented bunch, and they’ve earned a lot of respect.
“They will be one of the favourites for the Champions Trophy definitely, but quite a few teams stand out – India won the last Champions Trophy, and the Aussies are always a team to look out for.”
De Villiers had an elbow operation last autumn but returned for South Africa’s white-ball matches in New Zealand earlier this year, and also played for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL.
“I started the IPL very well and felt in good touch throughout the tournament, but we never got going as a team as a whole,” he added.
“It was a poor IPL for us, but that’s long gone now. I’m very excited to be back with the South Africa team.”
“I’m feeling fresh, feeling 100 per cent, and looking forward to playing this series and then the tournament.”
Quinton de Kock signalled his intent for the season with a 78-ball hundred in the Standard Bank Proteas’ 50-over warm-up match against Sussex at Hove on Friday.
De Kock’s century, which included seven sixes and five fours, led the Proteas to a 66-run win in the rain-affected 32-over match.
De Kock (104 of 78 balls) and stand-in opener, Wayne Parnell (61 off 42 balls), set the platform for the Proteas’ imposing total of 289 for four with a spectacular opening partnership of 121 off 88 balls.
The destructive left-hander last played competitive cricket in March, but looked in impressive form ahead of a busy international summer.
Parnell’s success at the top of the order in the absence of the rested Hashim Amla has given the coaching staff an unorthodox batting option should the need arise.
There were also contributions from stand-in captain JP Duminy (68 off 46 balls) and David Miller (25 off 20 balls) down the order, with most of the batsmen making good use of the match practice.
With the ball, Kagiso Rabada (2-26) and Parnell (1-33) made early inroads with the new ball, which stalled a tough chase for the home team.
Harry Finch (62 off 59 balls) put in a spirited performance, but regular wickets and a rising run-rate left the hosts off the pace.
It was a fruitful outing for the bowlers despite the reduced overs, with the pace quintet (Rabada, Parnell, Morkel, Pretorius and Phehlukwayo) and Keshav Maharaj (2-31) getting valuable mileage on the legs.