AB: I’m happy to say we were outplayed tonight

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Proteas skipper AB de Villiers has admitted that his team were outplayed in the first T20I against England in Southampton but feels the margin of victory flattered the hosts.

De Villiers felt that it would have been a different game had the Proteas managed twenty or so runs more than the paltry 142 for 3 they amassed.

The Proteas batting effort was hard to watch with both De Villiers and Farhaan Behardien looking out of touch and struggling to middle the ball.

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The pair put on a record fourth wicket stand after South Africa slipped to 32 for 3 at the beginning of the fifth over but both have been lambasted by pundits and fans for their pedestrian batting.

Speaking after the match De Villiers said: “It was a slow start unfortunately, we lost a couple of wickets.

“Looking back that was probably the best time for us to bat in the first six overs.

“It got really slow after that and it was difficult to hit through the line so I felt really good from the word go, I felt that we can cash in in the first six but unfortunately we had to rebuild for a few overs to try and get a partnership going again.

“Three down early and Fudgie [Behardien] and I did ok to bring it back. We tried to take it to them and it was really difficult to get it away, both of us struggled to clear in the V, we brought all our skills out but unfortunately came up about 20-25 runs short.”

De Villiers had the look of a man trying his utmost but coming up severely short and his decision to give up Test cricket to focus on the 2019 World Cup looks increasingly flawed with the once fluent batsman looking a shadow of his former self.

The skipper felt his team were simply outplayed: “They bowled pretty well and I’m happy to say we were outplayed tonight. I pride myself on taking it to the bowlers towards the end but it was really difficult to get it away.

Speaking of England’s spinners Liam Dawson (0/17) and debutant Mason Crane (0/24) De Villiers contended they gave little away while conceding that he and Behardien failed to take full toll on loose deliveries offered by the Hampshire youngster.

He added: “They both bowled particularly well, the leg spinner [Crane] gave us a few things to hit but we didn’t cash in with that. The left-arm spinner, Dawson, bowled pretty well as well. We tried to expose him in a few areas but it didn’t come off, it doesn’t always come out of the middle of the bat. I think we’ll play them a bit better in the next game.”

De Villiers praised the young Crane who bowled well on debut despite failing to get among the wickets.

He said: “I picked his deliveries but he did pretty well for a youngster, I think he must of been under big pressure playing in front of a packed stadium against some of the best players in our side, I thought he handled himself really well.

“[He] gave us a few things to hit, which is normal for a leg spinner especially playing in his first game but he has definitely got some skill and it’s nice to see some of the youngsters like that come through.”

The Proteas captain felt that the game would have been different had they managed just a few more runs. England looked untroubled by the pace of the wicket and took to all the South African bowlers despite the variety on offer cantering to a nine wicket win.

De Villiers went on: “Probably about twenty short, I know it doesn’t look like that losing by five odd overs but they had the freedom of going after us because they had wickets in hand and we had a low total, it would have been a different game had we got about twenty odd more.”

The second T20I will take place in Taunton on Friday and the series concludes on Sunday in Cardiff.