AB de Villiers, says the satisfaction of leading from the front has been the driving force behind his match-winning performances for South Africa this year. De Villiers is currently ranked No. 1 on the ICC One-Day International (ODI) batsman rankings, and averages 76.85 in 10 matches in 2014. His list of match-winning performances this year continues to grow.
De Villiers' contribution of 108 off 71 balls to win the series against Sri Lanka in Hambantota, 57 not-out against Australia in the final of the triangular series in Zimbabwe and 79 not-out on Tuesday, highlight the skipper's insatiable desire to lead from the front when it counts. (How SA beat Kiwis in first ODI)
"What gets me going is finishing games for the team," he said after South Africa defeated New Zealand by six wickets at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui. "Being there at the end, there is nothing more rewarding than that. When you talk about stats and milestones at the end of a career; that is something that I will look back on."
The Proteas put in a clinical performance in their first match following a month-long break, and continue to tick the right boxes ahead of a crucial season.
"I'm very happy with this performance," De Villiers said. "It's a great start to what is a tough tour with three ODI's here and five in Australia. To start off well always helps a little bit. I have mixed feelings about the first half of the game," he admitted.
"I thought we got ourselves into a strong position to finish them off. Other than that it was a great bowling performance. Getting a team nine down after 35 overs, with your two best bowlers with the ball in hand; they will be disappointed that they didn't finish the job.
"We got ourselves under a little bit of pressure with the bat after 15 overs," he said. "The top six is in really good form at the moment and I'm really pleased with the way we finished it off."
De Villiers and the rest of the batsmen adapted well to the unfamiliar Bay Oval pitch, which was on the slow side and gave off a "tennis ball" bounce.
"I personally didn't feel like I was in at all, which maybe helped me and played into my hands," he said. "I felt like I was a little bit more conservative than I usually am because of the fact that it wasn't coming out of the middle as per usual. It made me focus a little more on the basics; I tried to get off strike more, got my ones to get the innings going. In the end I was there, I'm very happy to have gotten the team past the line with JP (Duminy)."
The second ODI (on October 24) will be played at Bay Oval, Tauranga and the third (on October 27) at Seddon Park, Hamilton.