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

Du Plessis' lesson in stonewalling

Faf du Plessis' epic rearguard century was the stuff of dreams for his team, and a nightmare that just wouldn't go away for Australia

Firdose Moonda at Adelaide Oval

November 26, 2012

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

Faf du Plessis and Morne Morkel walk off after saving the Test, Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day, November 26, 2012
Faf du Plessis: "I said to myself to 'think of the team's goal', which was to be defensive." © Getty Images

When the next middle-order batsman makes his debut for South Africa, he may hope for an Australia tour to do it in. After all, the last two to do so have launched the careers there.

In 2008, JP Duminy's career was conceived at the WACA and born at the MCG, with a half-century at the former and hundred at the latter turning him into the next big thing. Faf du Plessis did not even have to wait for a second venue. He went from a cricketing infant to a fully grown man in three days in Adelaide, with a contribution that gave South Africa a great escape.

Du Plessis' arrival will be compared with that and Jacques Kallis' effort in 1997 at the MCG, made even more poignant by the fact that Kallis himself was involved in the partnerships that brought up du Plessis' milestones in both innings.

If Duminy had not been injured after the first day's play in Brisbane, du Plessis would not have played in the series at all. And in even more 'truth is stranger than fiction' fashion, if Ashwell Prince had not been injured the day before the Perth Test in 2008, Duminy would have not played at all. The chain reaction of capitalising on injury and being part of a historic result will be retold with the awe of a myth. Watching it felt like being on the last sentence of a page every time, waiting to turn it over as fast as possible to see what was on the other side but wanting to absorb every word first.

The scene-setter was perfect. A visibly inhibited AB de Villiers who, despite being one of du Plessis' best friends from his school days had always outshone him at age group level, was his partner at first. Now, on the same playing field, there could be no better mentor to keep du Plessis calm. "I saw a few tweets last night saying it's Affies [the Afrikaans Seuns Hoërskool] against Australia," du Plessis said.

For two sessions, the two showed temperament that would tire even the most determined fast bowlers as they offered forward defensive after forward defensive. Every time de Villiers has faced this amount of balls in Test cricket, 220, he has managed at least 150 runs. There were only 33 to show for him this time.

Du Plessis was not quite as apprehensive although he stonewalled with equal determination. On the two occasions when it seemed Australia has breached his defence, technology proved that they hadn't and the umpire's calls of 'out' were overturned. Not long after, when Michael Clarke tried to use the DRS to remove him, it denied Australia again.

None of that fazed him; he batted in a bubble. He concerned himself with only the next ball, with what he had to do to make sure he did not get out to it and not who was bowling it.

Faf du Plessis on the heat of the battle

  • "It was awesome, the fact that it was so close. Just when I think one guy is playing the bowlers really well, he gets out. The Australians didn't stop. They kept chatting in my ear the whole day. We would have done the same thing. They were fighting and they were getting frustrated because they weren't getting us out. At the end, you could see Morne was a little bit nervous coming in. I just tried to keep him calm. He already knew that if he gets out … he was carrying the weight of the whole nation on his shoulders. I told him to play straight and he said, 'Don't worry, I've got this.'"

That bubble only burst when de Villiers was bowled after lunch and du Plessis had to fight with an injured man. With Jacques Kallis' injury on everyone's mind, run-scoring had to become even more of an afterthought. He spent 11 overs in the 90s and had to hold himself back, though he appeared anxious to complete a century. He offered Matthew Wade a chance off the edge when he was on 94 and nerves set in further. After tea, he tried to glance a few deliveries down the leg side and when that didn't work, he reverted back to the drive.

Eventually, all he could do was tell himself to forget the impending achievement. "I was on 96 when I said I am one boundary away here, so please can they bowl me a half volley," he said. "When I was on 98, then the emotions started pouring in. I said to myself to 'think of the team's goal', which was to be defensive and not give everything away."

It would have been cruel if after focusing on that goal for seven hours and 47 minutes, he was not able to celebrate something of his own. It seemed the least he deserved. When it happened it was with the same quiet efficiency as the rest of his innings. South Africa were still some way off saving the match and du Plessis would still have work to do with the tail, so he was not over the top in his acknowledgment of a landmark most people would have whooped about.

Almost everything about this Test has been modest for du Plessis. His girlfriend Imari Visser did not see any of his heroics despite coming to Australia with him on the tour; the couple was unsure whether du Plesiss would play the match, and so she booked flights to Melbourne to visit her family during the Adelaide Test.

Things are unlikely to be so discreet for him in the near future. Already people have asked what took so long for him to be selected for South Africa; while his first-class career began well and he averaged around the 40 mark, in 2008 chose to become a Kolpak player and so could not be selected for South Africa. It is unlikely that he would have picked anyway been because the Test squad had a settled and experienced line-up that included the likes of Neil McKenzie and Ashwell Prince.

A spot only opened up in December 2011, when Prince was dropped. Jacques Rudolph, who had struggled at the top of the order was moved down, though, so the queue shortened but did not disappear.

Du Plessis was not in the best position to command a spot either. He batting No.7 for Titans, he was not spending enough time at the crease. That only changed when Matthew Maynard moved him up the order last season and he repaid the coach with 599 runs in four matches. Suddenly, the people that mattered took notice and he was considered as more than just a limited-overs energiser.

From there, he followed the usual path. He played for South Africa A, he was a reserve member of the senior side and when the chance came, he got it. It is a tough road to being a properly prepared international cricketer but du Plessis would not prefer it any other way.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by   on (November 29, 2012, 9:12 GMT)

Jesus..I thought this guy was T20 specialist!...@ Meety..I think a lot people are in absolute shock at the ability this guy has..Wow..

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 27, 2012, 15:43 GMT)

Not sure if Du Plessis will later encounter a run of failures like how JP Duminy had to undergo after his MCG ton and end up losing his regular test spot.

Posted by harshthakor on (November 27, 2012, 9:34 GMT)

One of the best test innings of all time to bat for your life.South Africa displayed unrelenting nerves to save the test after they seemed certain of crashing to defeat.

Posted by Ubaidaleem on (November 27, 2012, 8:32 GMT)

Top quality innings. Old school defence. Amazing test match. Who said test cricket is dead?

Posted by Pablo123 on (November 27, 2012, 7:26 GMT)

Well done FAF. There are so many blokes who could step into those shoes and play like you did, it's great that it was you and YOU took the bull by the horns. SA has a great amount of players waiting in the wings when opportunities like these present themselves. Let it be a call to all National Players, that their position in the side can only be kept by performance, you slip, there is someone waiting to take your spot with aplomb.

Posted by vinny34a on (November 27, 2012, 7:13 GMT)

this is a great inning by someone playing his very first match and saving the match for his country. it is all courage and braveness. i can not remember even a single time when India needed to win or save the game and GOD OF CRICKET ever played an inning like this in his 20 years career. well done FUF DU............

Posted by narendiran41 on (November 27, 2012, 5:56 GMT)

Just Simply, "One of the greatest test matches I have seen". Though many of them performed well in this match, The credit goes to "DEBUTANT" Duplesis. It is not just scoring runs, it is also staying in the field calmly. So the Credit is not for his hundred, for the amount of balls he faced. Simply great...:) :) :)

Posted by cricmatters on (November 27, 2012, 4:36 GMT)

Good batting is all about discipline and power of concentration. Du Plesis was stuck on 98 for a long time but that showed that he is not flustered and ready to wait. Losing Pattinson midway through the match cost Australia the match. Top order batting is still a worry for Australia. They are getting 3 down for nothing too frequently. Ponting is never going to leave on his own, selectors have to be firm and act in the best interests of the team like they did in the case of Matt Hayden.

Posted by IAS2009 on (November 27, 2012, 1:53 GMT)

all i can say amazing innings, his temperament in his 90s was amazing, i though SA will loose when Kalis was out, SA have to more agressive at WACA to win.

Posted by bluefunk on (November 27, 2012, 0:59 GMT)

might be a cliche, but have to say it - this was true grit. go saffas.

Posted by Meety on (November 27, 2012, 0:04 GMT)

du Plessis - no way did I think he was up for even a quarter of what he did over the course of this Test. If he performs at half that ability for the rest of his career, Sth Africa have a champion. Scarcely believable performance.

Posted by kirands on (November 26, 2012, 22:11 GMT)

Not sure how many people saw this but the Australian players and spectators in Adelaide paid Faf Du Plessis the ultimate tribute and accolade in one particular incident towards the fag end of the match yesterday. When Morne Morkel played a straight drive off Peter Siddle all of them kept yelling at the fielder who was chasing the ball to allow it to go over the boundary line so that Du Plessis would not get the strike for four balls and that Morkel would have to handle them. They made it obvious that the Australian bowlers could not get or did not know how to Du Plessis out. For an oldtimer it reminded me of the classic 1974-75 Madras Test when G.R. Viswanath was going hammer and tongs with 97 not out, and Clive Lloyd desperately tried to get Chandrasekhar out since Roberts and co. could not dismiss Viswanath who went on to play a matchwinning innings.

Posted by alfredmynn on (November 26, 2012, 21:51 GMT)

Showing us that nothing is impossible in test cricket ...

Posted by ygkd on (November 26, 2012, 20:58 GMT)

A fine innings. You need a bit of luck at times and du Plessis got it when the keeper appeared to mistake his ability for that of Healy or Rixon or Berry or Manou and come up to the stumps for Hilfenhaus' bowling. Still, with all that went against SA in Adelaide, maybe they were due, even overdue, a bit their way. As for du Plessis' temperament, the best comment I've heard "is this bloke's un-Faffable".

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 20:39 GMT)

A great example of poise, quite determination, patience, focus and fortitude - qualities that are not easy to cultivate in the age of distractions. Well done!

Posted by poms_have_short_memories on (November 26, 2012, 20:27 GMT)

As an Australian fan i desperately wanted us to win,but what a fantastic effort by Du Plessis on debut. Some people may think the last day and a half was boring but i think this what cricket is all about,death to T20!!

Posted by bumsonseats on (November 26, 2012, 20:04 GMT)

another player who benefited for playing county cricket for Lancashire. he was very near to been another saffar playing for england. why or why do we keep on given these guys a leg up playing quality cc were their own competition lets them down.

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 18:57 GMT)

After slating the Proteas for almost two Test matches, I happily eat humble pie. The defence and resilience shown by the team in Adelaide was absolutely incredible. Right from the first day it seemed Australia would take a lead in the three match series but intense stoicism shown by South Africa, especially by that man Faf du Plessis, enabled them to pull off an extremely unlikely draw. I wonder how the Australians will bounce back after this? You can never write them off but surely they'll feel gutted... So - off to the WACA for perhaps a series decider..? It's going to be intense! I LOVE Test Cricket!

Posted by oziak on (November 26, 2012, 18:03 GMT)

not at all surprise tht du Plessis effort! infact i expected him to stay there till the end. He has been very good since he international debut & was great at IPL too. I was always surprise that Rudolph was picked ahead of him

Posted by InnocentGuy on (November 26, 2012, 17:57 GMT)

Love this showdown. I thought SA once again flattered to deceive. Boy was I wrong!! What a knock!! Dravid would be proud! :P

Posted by wiseshah on (November 26, 2012, 17:54 GMT)

I wonder why it take so long to debut such a good performer, he has been performing for last several years, he is in the same league like kallis, de villiers and old smith, who used to perform. Its better late than never

Posted by Gerry_the_Merry on (November 26, 2012, 17:09 GMT)

Hate admitting this but SAFs go as favourites in spite of red hot Clarke.

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (November 26, 2012, 17:08 GMT)

wow! I had come to an opinion that modern batsmen lack the ability to defend for hours and 'bat to save a match'. But these South African batsmen are surely an exception. Well done Du Plessis, De Villiers and Kallis! Even though Dale Steyn scored a duck, he faced 28 balls. This takes a lot of determination and grit. The statistics will show that De Villiers only scored 33. But he took 220 balls to save the match for him team. That's why they say "statistics don't reveal everything".

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 16:37 GMT)

Been a tremendous t20 player . Du plessis innings today is exemplary

Posted by a1s2 on (November 26, 2012, 16:29 GMT)

sakib ul hasan should take a lesson from this guy.bangladesh still had a whole 5th day and sakib on last over of 4th day against west indies got out on 97 looking for a hundred.

Posted by mazdonal on (November 26, 2012, 16:09 GMT)

Oh man I love this woman's writing. And she knows Afrikans too? There seems to be no end to her accomplishments

Posted by munchovski on (November 26, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

i totally agree with it being one of the best test debuts ever, especially from a south african perspective. faf carried us today and will hold a place in south african cricketing folklore for his contribution. on top of his efforts in the second dig he played a crucial role in the first innings and totally deserved to finish with a test average of 188 (unless my maths is wrong) after his first crack at the format. its not a win but it feels like one. perth is south africa's best opportunity on this tour but our bowlers have to find a way to stop clarke and hussey. warner, cowan, ponting and presumably watson are no easybeats but if dale, vern and morne get it right and hit a rythm on a 'typical' waca track with kleinveldt in support - because lets face it, tahir didn't really go so well in adelaide - we can take twenty wickets and hopefully give our batsmen a chance to sway the result in south africa's favour. awesome knock faf, top efforts from ab and jacques also

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 15:06 GMT)

Monumental effort to save the test match Well played Faf. Hoping to see more of you in all formats donning South African colors.

Posted by Unomaas on (November 26, 2012, 14:42 GMT)

@LillianThomson - Very much agreed with you! AB's stonewalling is the stuff of legend and yet, his achievement will fade into the background as we celebrate Faf. Between AB and Faf, I feel that AB had more baggage and responsibility in trying to save this game for us. AB is seen as a potential heir apparent when it comes to the SA captaincy hence the repsponsibilty to save this game must have been tremendous. Added to this, he had the scrutiny of everyone who commented on the dual role of his wicket keeper responsibilities and batting. No offense to Faf, if he had failed, we would have accredited it to nerves and inexperience. If AB had failed, people would have been howling for blood! We will never know what it cost AB to produce that innings. I'm proud nonetheless because when it really counted, he stood up and was counted! So yeah...let the AB debate rage. While everyone is screaming, the true supporters can revel in the thought that when he is needed, he'll be their for us!

Posted by Nick636 on (November 26, 2012, 14:32 GMT)

WELL... DONE... FAF!!!

A heroes knock. AB showed incredible resolve as well. Unlucky to "drop the ball" but these guys brought the game back when I thought all was lost.

The commentators trying to "hash out" who to replace Tahir with...? NOT EVEN A QUESTION, Robin Peterson plain and simple. He adds another bat. Also, drop Rudolph, he has had his chance(s)(s). Add Philander (IF fit) and welcome to an SA win out of the blue.

Posted by Legaleagle on (November 26, 2012, 14:29 GMT)

This was one of the greatest rearguard effort I have seen in many years. Incredible find for South Africa! This guy is going to go places.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (November 26, 2012, 14:28 GMT)

The truth comes back to haunt Australia yet again - Their seamers are county -standard trundlers and the less said about Lyon the better. Can't they find just one, just one, person in the whole of Australia who can spin a cricket ball?? The Australian cricket 'Academy' should just distribute videos of Graham Swann bowling, the long-accepted biggest turner of the ball in world cricket for the last three years. Back to the drawing board Australia. Du Plessis played a great knock, but when you've against a non-spinner and a weak seam attack things are a bit easier.

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 14:12 GMT)

he played a well tempered innings it was great to watch with the Siddle running in with a fireball. it was fantastic from SA's point of view but they need to do a lot more to win a test there

Posted by Simoc on (November 26, 2012, 13:25 GMT)

This must be one of the best debuts of all time. He looks the part and delivered. It is apparent that SA with an Oz mindset would have won this game by scoring runs everywhere. But it is even going to Perth and I still fancy the SA victory there. Steyn needs to deliver and has the capability and Morkel looks to be difficult. Philander may end up with the wickets that Mitchell Johnston probably won't get. The DRS works great and it is good to see the best available decisions being made.

Posted by ramli on (November 26, 2012, 12:59 GMT)

Well done CSK man??? You made us proud (there is little to cheer in India today) ... What else to say? Go Go

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 12:58 GMT)

What a champion. The next Kallis.

Posted by LillianThomson on (November 26, 2012, 12:54 GMT)

I was astonished not so much by du Plessis but by the restraint and maturity shown by AB de Villiers.

This performance ranked a little higher than Atherton's defiance in South Africa and was almost as unbelievable as when Danny Morrison of all people resisted England at Eden Park for more than a session.

And now it will all come down to a bowl-off: Steyn+Morkel+Philander v Hilfenhaus+Starc+Johnson.

Posted by jokerbala on (November 26, 2012, 12:54 GMT)

So all commentators have to eat their words now. " Playing your natural game can only keep you at the crease" and " not getting bogged down" and what not . I guess Faf showed them how its done like a pro.

Posted by SCC08 on (November 26, 2012, 12:46 GMT)

You're a champion Faf! Respect to you mate.

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