Rajkot: Lanky speedster Morne Morkel, who stymied the Indian run-chase with some superb death bowling, had carried on with a sore leg to bowl South Africa to victory in the third One-Day International, revealed the visiting team's skipper A B de Villiers.
"Yeah, Morne came to me after he bowled six overs and he told me that he's got a little bit of a sore leg and I might have to think to get his overs out of the way. And he bowled so well in that return spell that I had to keep him for one at the end there," said De Villiers after Morkel's superb 4 for 39 haul, which included the wickets of top scorer Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane off successive balls.
"So he showed a lot of guts and determination to get through that spell. It would have been a very easy decision for him to just go off and call it a day, but he pulled through for the boys and he bowled exceptionally well with a sore leg in the last 4 overs. He turned the game on its head, with a few other contributions, obviously. But he deserves all that is coming his way," said the skipper.
Chasing South Africa's challenging 270, India fell short by 18 runs thanks to Morkel's brilliant bowling and some adequate support from other visiting team bowlers.
"I think on these sorts of wickets, with my height, I get a lot of inconsistent bounce and that's a strength for me in the subcontinent. It worked for me tonight and it was always part of my game-plan after watching the boys bat in the first innings," said Morkel when asked why he chose the short stuff instead of yorkers on the slow SCA Stadium track at Kandheri.
De Villiers also praised his side's fighting qualities on the tour and hailed regular wicket keeper Quinton de Kock's excellent century (103 in 118 balls) that set up the challenging score initially after the visitors opted to bat first.
"The boys have shown amazing character. We have done so in the whole tour so far. I think it is vital and it is a key in the game we played that you can't ever give up. I have reiterated it in team meetings, before the game and during the game," said the Proteas ODI captain.
"I had a few hard chats with the boys in the field today because I don't think we started well with the ball in hand, but we never gave up and you can see the passion and the drive that we showed in the last 15 overs was amazing," De Dilliers added.
He also termed De Kock's batting as "amazing".
"It was amzing batting. I thought he batted exceptionally well, against the spin, against the seam. He paced his innings very well. It was a mature knock. He got the ones and struck the occasional boundary.
"I think he answered a lot of questions just the way Quinton can do. He's a unique player, he's got immense amount of talent and I love to have him in the side. So it's very nice to have him back doing his thing with the bat and with the gloves," De Villiers said.
"David Miller (promoted as opener) and Quinton de Kock played exceptionally well and there is not a lot of turn with the new ball, so both left-handers looked very comfortable against spin. It was a pretty slowish pitch and not easy for us to bat on. They made it look easy. I was very happy with the start, they laid the foundation well.
"Hashim (Amla) and me didn't come off well but Faf du Plessis did. He is always one of the three who comes off well in the middle overs which gives freedom for Farhan Behardien and JP Duminy to enjoy themselves there which they did," he elaborated.
"It was nice that he (De Kock) came on with the gloves, I was finding it a little difficult standing behind the stumps there," De Villiers said about De Kock coming on to replace him behind the stumps in the latter part of the unsuccessful Indian run-chase.
De Villiers thought his bowlers and fielders did not start well but in the end everything came right while defending what according to him was a good score.
"I didn't think we started very well tonight, so there were quite a few chats between myself and the bowlers and the fielders. I thought we fielded very poorly throughout the innings today, dropped a few catches, missed a few run outs.
So we had a few discussions," he said.
"I thought we bowled a little full in the first 10-15 overs, too many driving balls. Once you pull the lengths back and hit the right length with the odd cutters and the odd bouncer, we struck India down and the game turned around at I think about 35 overs," De Villiers said.
"I thought 250 was a par score. There was the feeling right throughout the innings, after 20-30 overs, actually after 50 overs, I thought to myself, if we can get to 250, it would be a really good score to defend on this wicket. And we got to 270 and I was pretty comfortable with it.
"I always knew the first 20 overs with the ball would be difficult. But what happens in India is that the game speeds up towards the end and it proved to be exactly like that tonight once again," he said.
De Villiers said yesterday's 18-run victory and the 2-1 lead in the five-match rubber, has put his side in a great spot to win their first-ever series on Indian soil.
"We sit here 2-1 up against India, it's a great position to be here and it's a wonderful opportunity to win the series.
So we won't touch the money yet but we've got a good chance in the last two, we would love to win both. But all the focus will be on the next game in Chennai (on October 22). We would love to break through there (before the final game in Mumbai on October 25)," the visiting team skipper said.