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South Africa captain AB de Villiers has made it clear that England are “not unbeatable” as the Proteas head into the fourth and final Test searching for a consolation win.
Even though England already hold an unassailable 2-0 lead heading into the fourth Test, de Villiers has called on his side to expose the cracks in the tourists’ batting line-up and added that some of their bowlers “have lost pace”, which has been widely interpreted as a cheap shot against England seamer James Anderson, who has only taken three wickets in two Tests at an average of 54.33.
“There’s no hiding from the fact that they seem to know what they are doing. But there’s also no doubt that there are weaknesses there, and we’ve exposed some of them – but not enough and not for long enough,” de Villiers said. “Their batting is not 100% best-in-the-world material. The bowling line-up is very experienced but some have lost pace over the years but they’re very smart and very skilled. They’re not unbeatable.”
However, England skipper Alastair Cook believes that Anderson will make de Villiers pay for his comments in Centurion.
“He’s obviously trying to wind everything up and if Jimmy reads it he’ll have a word,” Cook said. “I actually think his speeds have been quite good in this series. It’s a brave man to call Jimmy Anderson out but I guess it will spice up the match a little.”
Meanwhile, de Villiers also urged his side to put up more of a fight in the final Test as he would rather see the series end 2-1 in England’s favour instead of 3-0.
“There are no dead rubbers in Test cricket. The game has got way too much tradition and culture and history for us just to rock up and think it doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s a huge game for us. We’d hate to lose 3-0. I think 2-1 sounds a lot better. It would be great to win a Test. We haven’t won a Test for 12 months.”
With South Africa’s batting line-up having struggled for consistency throughout the ongoing series and in the four-Test series against India late last year, de Villiers admitted that the Proteas need to invest in a batting coach.
“We’ve been a bit naive in believing we can go on the way we have been,” de Villiers said. “We need to get advice and help, not only from a batting coach – in a few other areas as well. That will be discussed after this series. There are a few names already in the hat.”