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De Villiers aims to limit England's hitters

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South Africa limited-overs captain AB de Villiers has hinted his side will target England’s batsmen as they look to knock the hosts off the top of the world rankings for the second time this summer.

England have risen to the top of the one-day international list on the back of 10 back-to-back wins in 2012 and, while de Villiers believes they are a “wonderful” team, he has warned they are “a batsman light”.

It is an analysis Australia similarly made before their 4-0 trouncing earlier this summer, when England’s top-order never allowed them to get far enough to attack the perceived weakness.

South Africa’s pace attack has, however, already proved its class in the 2-0 Investec Test Series success - that knocked England off the top of the five-day rankings - and, with the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel set to be unleashed again, the tourists are aiming to repeat the dose in the NatWest Series.

“I think they are a little bit light in the batting department - that might be something that we will be attacking. We'll see. They’ve got Bresnan that I think they rely on quite a bit coming in at seven,” de Villiers said today ahead of tomorrow’s opening game at the SWALEC Stadium.

“The reason why they’re playing conservatively up front is because they’re a batter light. They don’t go with the wicketkeeper at seven like most teams do. But I don’t think they’ve got a set blueprint. They can play around with options and they’ve got a wonderful ODI side.”

AB de Villiers

South Africa captain AB de Villiers said: “We’re a very good fielding unit, have a lot of youngsters in the team and are just a busy cricket team.”

Despite his tough talking, de Villiers conceded his side must take heed from the manner in which England have developed their recent home success.

England have not lost a home ODI series since 2009 and the wicketkeeper-batsman is wary that the new ball will have a key part to play, having noted that the hosts' opening pair - Alastair Cook and Ian Bell - had set up the crushing series win over Australia before their frontline quicks went to work early.

“You’ve got to play the situation and the conditions that you’re dealt. In England it moves around a little bit with the two new balls,” he said.

“You can’t just go out there and hit every ball for six. You will be three or four down very quickly. You have to try and get through the new ball with as a little damage as possible.”

After knocking England off the coveted Test perch, de Villiers denied that taking over at the top of the 50-over format was the main objective of the five-match rubber.

South Africa will go top with a series win, or if they draw, but de Villiers - who took over the captaincy in June last year - is more concerned with developing a new-look side.

“It’s definitely not our main goal. We’re not here focused on world rankings, certainly not as much as the Test series,” he said.

“It would be nice to get that as a bonus but we feel we’ve got other stuff to focus on. We’re trying to build a brand of cricket that we want to play.

“We want to play attacking, good cricket. I’d like to think of us as a team that has done fairly well under pressure so when we are put under pressure this series we will be looking to attack that’s for sure.

“We’re a very good fielding unit, have a lot of youngsters in the team and are just a busy cricket team who won cricket games under pressure.”

England have had just four days to get over their Test series defeat before they return to action. De Villiers expects Cook's side will therefore carry some misgivings into the one-day series.

However, with England also welcoming a number of limited-overs specialists into the squad, de Villiers does not think such factors will be decisive.

“That won’t be huge, maybe a tiny little bit of a factor. It’s the same situation we find ourselves in with a new-look team under Cook,” he said.

“They’ll feel refreshed and re-energised. Their ODI team is a totally different unit and I can’t see them carrying a lot of scars from the Test series. There is just a tiny little mental factor but if we don’t start well tomorrow we lose that momentum right away.”

All-rounder Albie Morkel is the only major doubt heading into tomorrow’s game after he underwent a fitness test today on an ankle injury picked up in yesterday’s tour win over Gloucestershire.

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