Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day November 26, 2012

Debutant du Plessis stars in thrilling draw


South Africa 388 and 8 for 248 (du Plessis 110*, Siddle 4-65, Lyon 3-49) drew with Australia 550 and 8 for 267 dec
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Faf du Plessis would not have been playing in this Test were it not for JP Duminy hurting his Achilles tendon at the Gabba. And just as Duminy did on debut in Perth four years ago, du Plessis has grabbed his first chance at Test cricket to provide a remarkable result for the South Africans. At the WACA it was a near-record chase of 414 for victory; this time South Africa's challenge was to bat for four and a half sessions on a wearing Adelaide Oval pitch to salvage a draw.

Thanks to du Plessis, they did so. Thanks to du Plessis, the scoreline remains at 0-0 heading into the decider in Perth, despite Australia having had the best of the first two Tests. And thanks to du Plessis, Australia's bowlers will have only four days to recover from some serious exhaustion, especially Peter Siddle, who sent down 63.5 overs for the match and was so debilitated by the time he bowled the final over of the match that he could barely stand up.

Of course, it wasn't all down to du Plessis. Early in the day, AB de Villiers played against type to score 33 from 220 balls without a boundary. Jacques Kallis again fought off his hamstring strain to provide important support in a 110-ball innings of 46. And Dale Steyn, Rory Kleinveldt and Morne Morkel did just enough to ensure that the No.11, Imran Tahir, would not be required. For South Africa, who will lose the No.1 Test ranking if Australia take the series, it was a draw that felt like a win.

For Michael Clarke and his men, it was an opportunity missed. There wasn't a lot more the Australians could have done, especially with James Pattinson's injury leaving them a bowler short throughout the fourth innings. But there were some half-chances that they were unable to take, the kind of tiny openings that on a day like this must not be wasted. An Australian victory was still possible until the final over of the last hour of the match.

By that stage, Siddle looked as if he'd just run a marathon. Somehow, he kept running in and his pace barely dropped, but Morkel was good enough to block out the over, which left South Africa on 8 for 248 when stumps was called. The score was irrelevant to the South Africans, who had given up on the chase of 430 on the fourth afternoon. Wickets were all that mattered. And a couple of breakthroughs in the final 40 minutes kept the contest alive.

Steyn fell for a 28-ball duck when he chipped an inswinging full toss from Siddle to midwicket, where Rob Quiney snapped up a sharp catch. And Kleinveldt survived for 17 deliveries before he missed a yorker and was bowled by Siddle for 3. In the end, Siddle finished with 4 for 65 from 33 overes, but his herculean effort was more than matched by du Plessis, who ended up unbeaten on 110 from 376 balls. For any batsman, it would have been a magnificent innings; for a debutant, it was preposterously good.

Most notable was the fact that du Plessis did not become overawed by the situation. He spent an eternity in the nineties but was not flustered, the team goal of survival overshadowing his own ambitions. When he eventually pushed two runs through cover off Ben Hilfenhaus and became the fourth South African to score a century on Test debut, after Andrew Hudson, Jacques Rudolph and Alviro Petersen, he acknowledged the applause and then settled straight back down to continue his job.

The milestone took him 310 deliveries, but he was far from stagnant. He played his shots when the opportunity arose and finished with 14 boundaries. He was as calm as Duminy had been back in 2008; in fact, his effort was much more impressive because the conditions were tougher and nobody else in the line-up managed so much as a half-century. The Australians thought they had du Plessis twice in the first session, only to be denied on review.

Both came off the bowling of Clarke, who drew positive lbw calls from Billy Bowden when du Plessis had 33 and again on 37. The first time, the batsman's review showed the ball had pitched a fraction outside leg stump; the second time it revealed that the two noises Bowden had heard were bat on ball and bat on ground - the ball had not even struck du Plessis on the foot or pad.

The Australians also used up their final review shortly before lunch when du Plessis, on 49, offered no shot to a Nathan Lyon delivery that pitched and struck him outside the line of off stump but was turning enough to interest Clarke. However, Eagle Eye suggested the ball would have bounced over the top of the stumps, and Clarke was left to consider how he would find six wickets in two sessions with no further reviews available.

In the last over before tea, they had a chance when du Plessis edged Hilfenhaus and Matthew Wade, standing up to the stumps, couldn't grasp the catch. Ed Cowan also put down a tough chance at short leg in the final session when Steyn clipped Siddle off his pads and the ball flew low to the ground, and they were the kind of opportunities the Australians couldn't afford to miss.

Cowan did complete a much easier catch in close when Lyon, who bowled 50 overs in the innings and 94 for the match, drew an inside edge onto pad from Kallis that popped up to short leg. Kallis had made 46 and given his injury, his effort was just as critical as that of du Plessis. De Villiers also played a key role until he was bowled by Siddle for a laborious 33 from 220 deliveries, an innings that did not include a boundary and was second only to Chris Tavare's effort at Madras in 1982 in terms of the lowest strike-rate for an innings of at least 30 runs in Test history.

De Villiers was happy defending and that was all South Africa really needed. They also required someone to stick around for the whole day, and du Plessis obliged. For the first time since 1921, Australia and South Africa had played out two consecutive draws. And for the second time this series, Australia saw a potential victory evade them. It all comes down to Perth.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Saeed on November 27, 2012, 20:28 GMT

    I feel sorry for Faf ... imagine playing the innings of a lifetime in your debut Test ... then how the heck is he going to be able top this innings for the remainder of his career??? ... but then again ... this is cricket we're talking about ... you just never know ...

  • Nasser on November 27, 2012, 17:30 GMT

    Just look at how south africans bat - 33 in 220 balls, 0 in 28 balls, a lifetime in the 90's when you are also hoping to score your first test century - Pakistanis are not clever enough to understand that the objective hewre is not to score runs but to stay on the crease. Hats off to the south africans, this is more a win than a draw - in spite of the amazing australians.

  • Prashan on November 27, 2012, 15:55 GMT

    @dsig3, Sri Lankan pitches are not flat. Did you watch the T20 world cup where the R Premadasa in Colombo spun big time? Have you seen Galle which spins a lot? How did we produce the highest wicket taker in test matches if we are a land of flat beds? Please research properly buddy. How did both tests we hosted against England this year have a 1-1 result if pitches are flat?

  • Prashan on November 27, 2012, 15:51 GMT

    Great fight by the Boks and simply a perfect example of resistance to save a test match. Hope West Indies as a re emerging side can learn from this and return to their days of glory. Also hope Pakistan, which depends too much on bowling also learns from this and produces match saving performances. Pakistan hardly draws a test match as they lack the batsmen who can last many sessions. Hope in the future Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Usman Salahuddin, Babar Azam etc can be the great walls of Pakistan. Also hope future Sri Lankan batting stars like Chandimal, Dimuth Karunaratne, Thirimanne and even Angelo Mathews learns plenty from this display.

  • Dummy4 on November 27, 2012, 11:12 GMT

    Faf du Plessis became the fourth South African to score a century on Test debut

  • Javed on November 27, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    If India had its way everywhere du Plessis would have been out (ex DRS) and Australia very likely a comfortable winner. Its another thing that even if Bowden had called correct the first time, he would have been gone later and again (ex DRS) and what a pity that would have been.

    India can claim, with some justification, that other errors even out the incorrect decisions, but evenness can be better achieved when there are fewer incorrect decisions besides leaving a sweeter taste in the mouth! Stop defending a worse system( in terms of umpiring decisions), India! Don't protect your batsmen (benefit of doubt going to the batsman)! Your nation will be a better cricketing nation without this misplaced help!

  • Harsh on November 27, 2012, 9:38 GMT

    The Proteas showed phenomenal tenacity and Du Pleseis's knock was like a captain saving a ship certain of sinking.South Africa looked dead and buried at 45-5 before this amazing rearguard action.Yesterday they reminded you of a batallion averting certain defeat.

  • Dummy4 on November 27, 2012, 9:09 GMT

    great work from duf and kallis, devilliers. This is why, i watch this match than india's match

  • Patrick on November 27, 2012, 8:54 GMT

    Interesting looking at the odds for 3rd test, Aust have spun the odds since Brisbane and Aust going in as firm favourites. Draws at long odds, surprising given the last too tests, hopefully they know the deck will have some spice!

  • greig on November 27, 2012, 8:49 GMT

    @Shaggy076, crh8971 and dinosaurus, many thanks for your response.

    So based on your views, Johnson should do well there, eventhough his current average is OK, he does very welll there due to the wind/breeze and bouncing conditions. This tells me he will definetly play. You also mention it can be good have an offspinner, R Petersen should therefore play instead of Tahir if SA go spin option. My concern is that Aus will attack R Peterson because he is not a high quality spinner. I think it will be the most seam friendly pitch we will see so far in this series, the fast bowlers should do well.

    Interesting reports in the news today with Clarke having a go at the WACA groundsman telling him to make the pitch 'fairer' and more batting friendly as there have been some lowish scores there.

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