Tue, 19 Mar 2019

Proteas: Du Plessis dynasty in full bloom

News24
16 Feb 2019, 07:37 GMT+10

Durban - In the recently-completed Test series against Pakistan, Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis quietly went about notching up a significant milestone.

In the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town, Du Plessis skippered South Africa for the 27th time in his Test career.

It put him one ahead of Shaun Pollock, who captained the Proteas 26 times, and third on that list behind Graeme Smith (108) and Hansie Cronje (53).

Having captained the Proteas in Test cricket for the first time in August, 2016 after AB de Villiers stepped down from his own brief stint in charge, Du Plessis has grown into the role as the years have passed.

While his leadership qualities have been praised both inside and outside of the South African dressing room, on Friday at Kingsmead Du Plessis showed that he is far more than merely a captain.

His knock of 90 will not be one that we speak about often in the years to come, but in the context of this Test match it was key.

South Africa lost their last five wickets for just eight runs to be dismissed for 259 in their second innings, setting Sri Lanka a target of 304 to win.

That is still likely to be enough, but it should have been a lot more and had Du Plessis not come to the party, Sri Lanka might very well be within striking distance of taking a shock 1-0 lead into the second and final Test in Port Elizabeth.

Du Plessis, in familiar fashion, was a pillar for the Proteas.

He is seldom easy on the eye when it comes to his Test approach, but his dogged mentality and seasoned technique combine to make him a very difficult batsman to get out.

On Friday, in fact, Du Plessis got himself out.

Vishwa Fernando, impressive throughout the contest with eight wickets to his name, went around the wicket and angled one in towards the stumps that did nothing off the wicket.

Du Plessis, 90* at the time having batted for four testing hours, offered no shot and was rapped on the pads and given out LBW.

The skipper was visibly gutted at missing out on a 10th Test ton - it would have also been his second in as many innings - but he would have been even more upset at doing all the hard work and then not being able to bat South Africa into an unassailable position.

Du Plessis had shared in a 96-run stand with the fluent Quinton de Kock for the fifth wicket, and in doing so he displayed a flexibility and ability to play the situations that suggest he would be more than comfortable in taking on the all-important No 4 role in this Test side.

With De Kock scoring relatively freely from one end, Du Plessis provided stable support from the other.

Yet, when De Kock was out for 55, Du Plessis was able to accelerate to ensure that the Proteas kept taking the game forward.

With 33 wickets having fallen in three days so far, batting has not been easy on this slow Kingsmead strip while Sri Lanka have surprised and have been in with a shout throughout.

On Friday, the hosts needed somebody in their frail top order to stand up and be counted. Du Plessis was that man.

He is not always front and centre when it comes to blazing knocks in the format, but Du Plessis averages 44.07 as a Test captain and he has never lost a series at home.

At 34, it is not clear how much longer he will be around for.

But, before he does call it quits, Du Plessis has three very important assignments remaining as skipper.

He desperately wants to take the Proteas back to No 1 in the Test rankings, he will try and guide South Africa to a first ever World Cup crown later this year and there is an ICC World T20 next year.

For now, South African cricket seems to be in good hands.

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