Mark Nicholas
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Former Hampshire batsman; host of Channel 9's cricket coverage

Faf celebrated in the land he denied

Faf du Plessis' epic fourth-innings hundred, which lasted nearly eight hours in the heat and humidity of Adelaide, is one of the greatest match-saving innings

Mark Nicholas

November 27, 2012

Comments: 83 | Text size: A | A

Faf du Plessis celebrates a century on debut, Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day, November 26, 2012
Faf du Plessis' celebration of an immense hundred was almost apologetic, because he had miles to go to save the Test for South Africa © Getty Images

Ever seen a movie that makes you squirm? A movie so transparently demanding of all its characters and so utterly compelling for all its viewers that you move from cheek to cheek in your seat, so uncomfortable that you cannot decide which is better, to watch or not to watch. If you have, you now have a feel for the last session of the Adelaide Test.

Australia did not deserve not to win. South Africa did not deserve to lose. Cricket has the answer. Play for five long days and finish without a result. Insane but we love it. And all because of a fellow called Faf - the darnedest, least likely name of a sporting hero I ever heard. Oh for a Viv, a Seb or a Seve; a Sachin, a Tiger or the Fed (Kevin is not good by the way, but KP sort of works). But Faf it is, out of Pretoria and now having pins stuck in his doll down under. Faf du Plessis did anything but faff.

The Faf facts are, he batted for seven hours and 46 minutes, in mainly 34 degrees of heat and high humidity, with five different partners, one of whom could barely run, to defy a voracious Australian attack and save a crucial match for his beloved country. This was a monumental effort, performed on debut and already written into the folklore of South African cricket: Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock against Australia in Durban, 1970; Kepler Wessels' men at Lord's, 1994; Faf du Plessis against Australia in Adelaide, 2012.

This writer did not even know du Plessis had been picked for the tour. Muppet. Waffling away on these pages three weeks ago, he said "Graeme Smith's No. 1-ranked team comes without the usual bench strength... there is no specialist batsman in reserve." Big mistake, huge. Better research next time. Du Plessis is bench strength writ large. He is energy and honesty and reliability. He is neither the most gifted nor the least, but is a good bloke, uncomplaining and popular. Indeed, he defines bench strength. Behind every good team is a good bench.

Of the 376 balls faced by the most talked about man in South Africa this week, no more than a dozen caused a problem. Both the Adelaide pitch and the Decision Review System were his friends. AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis were brothers in arms and equally impressive, if not impregnable. By playing forward and back, not from the crease, and by showing the maker's name to bowlers who threw their Australian souls at him, a proud Afrikaner allowed South Africa the luxury of arriving in Perth without a deficit.

There was something of the past in du Plessis' modesty. His clothes were neat, his kit uncluttered, his hair, when that helmet came off for air, short and side-parted. His celebration of a hundred was near apologetic"

This had not seemed possible at any time in the match, bar those long forgotten first-morning punches by Kallis, the bowler. Mesmerised by late swing both Ed Cowan and Ricky Ponting perished ingloriously. Three down for not many so soon after winning the toss, Australia looked once more to Michael Clarke, a man whose stock has risen more remarkably than the Dow Jones through the last years of the 20th century. Seeing Kallis limp from the fight, Clarke responded with punches of his own - drives and pulls that took him to the top of the world rankings and his team to 482 in the 86.5 overs bowled by the close of play.

Inside three days, in different parts of the world and on very different pitches, two men who once wore skunk hairdos and now settle for tattoos and a hint of jewellery as their rebellion, played innings that rank among the best in history. Modern men gracing an age-old game that people think will soon pass. It will not. Not if the Test matches in Mumbai and Adelaide are an indication. One team - England - staging the greatest comeback since, well since Sunday, when the Stones wreaked their havoc at the O2 arena in London. The other - South Africa - the greatest escape since Lord Lucan. These matches are proof of the sport, they are the reason we live it and love it and must continue to campaign for its pre-eminence. If Test cricket goes, a piece of us goes with it. The piece that is patience, manners and respect; the piece that is without commerce at its core.

By Monday - five days after the 482 festival on Thursday of the previous week, but in the same match - a mere 169 runs were scored in six hours play. Work that out and explain it to a Spaniard. Yet every ball had meaning and drama. Australia needed just six balls to go right but only four finished in their favour. Think of it: more than 540 deliveries by six different protagonists and only six had to work out as Clarke and Co wished. But they did not and we will talk of it forever. Watson and Bailey; McKay and Kline; Anderson and Panesar; du Plessis and Morkel - the two Afrikaners who join the list of cricket's most brilliant escapologists.

So pure and old hat was this Test match that one yearned for the pre-hard-hat days, those days without helmets, when the eyes and expressions of the cricketers drove our fancy. Those days before the DRS, when the umpires took our spleen, and technology was a slip-catch cradle that provided hours of fun and hands turned black and blue. There was something of the past in du Plessis' modesty. His clothes were neat, his kit uncluttered, his hair, when that helmet came off for air, short and side-parted. He played forward defensives as if brought up in Barnsley, and his celebration of a hundred was near apologetic: "Oops, sorry for momentary lapse into self-indulgence," he seemed to say, "I've a job to finish here."

And all this from a man whose best known previous is in T20. Look him up, been around a bit. Francois du Plessis: 141 List A or 75 T20s, 79 first-class. Played all over the place - Chennai, London, Manchester, and Melbourne soon apparently. Not till last season was he a regular pick for Northerns or Titans - the old Northern Transvaal - in first-class cricket. This is a riches to relevance story. T20 then Tests - one buys the shoes, the other books a slot in the history books.

All over town, people are talking about it. Baristas and barristers; doctors and nurses; the bloke at the gym, the one at the laundry, the eco-friendly folk upstairs who don't usually have cricket on their lips, the mate who played footie for Australia, the restaurateur, the providore. There, that's the sort of day I've had. No faffing from me, and none from him either. It is high praise to be celebrated in the land you denied.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

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Posted by   on (November 29, 2012, 20:04 GMT)

Great article describing a great test (and great escape for South Africa!) Cricinfo must be one of the best dedicated sports sites around - and it's articles like this that keeps on bringing us back...

Posted by   on (November 29, 2012, 16:50 GMT)

Test cricket is still the pinnacle of the sport and we are seeing it in all the wonderful series being played. T20 is exciting and will bring new fans to cricket but the Test match is just that...the ultimate test!

Posted by   on (November 29, 2012, 6:33 GMT)

Great words. I was mesmerised by that final day and love the fact that test cricket can still be that exciting.

Posted by Paulk on (November 29, 2012, 0:37 GMT)

Terrific article. Te writing appears to be from another time or era just like the cricket was (and Faf's batting) on the last day. Thank you Mr. Nicholas.

Posted by zafar_tayyab on (November 28, 2012, 13:40 GMT)

Great Art Faf and Mark both of you. Faf for displaying the art of determination and Mark for bringing out beauty of it. Thank you both. By the way being a neutral spectator I always anticipate some thing special from every game between these two great teams specially after watching them score almost nine hundred runs in only one day of cricket in that epic 50 overs a side ODI match few years back.

Posted by gundapps on (November 28, 2012, 12:24 GMT)

Spare a thought for DRS. But for it, a truly outstanding test would have been done and dusted long before any drama unfolded and SA would have left complaining that they were done in by bad umpiring. BCCI note!

Posted by Digimont on (November 28, 2012, 10:53 GMT)

As an Australian fan, I unreservedly doff my Akubra in your direction, Mr Du Plessis. I note that your team mates collectively did their bit from the other end too and the Australians kepy coming. Great article Mark. Great advertisement for REAL cricket. Long live test cricket. I just hope that next year's drop in pitch is up to standard. What a fitting farewell for the old strip of Adelaide black dirt covered in Santa Anna couch.

Posted by redneck on (November 28, 2012, 9:48 GMT)

would have been caught if wade wasnt trying to stand up to the stumps for hilfey???? still credit where credit is due, what an innings! the total opposite of what we saw from clarke on day one but an innings of equal importance in the end.

Posted by ozwriter on (November 28, 2012, 9:17 GMT)

faf, what an innings. there aren't not enough superlatives to describe what he did. this article does a good job though.

Posted by SirBobJones on (November 28, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

Am I still recovering from a big one last night, or did Mark Nicholas admit he was wrong about something?

Posted by Katey on (November 28, 2012, 8:03 GMT)

Vary interesting article! Thanks.

Here's something pre-Adelaide from Faf's column at SuperSport:

"Now we're in Adelaide and focusing on the second test, where I'm hoping to get the opportunity to make my test debut, in place of the injured JP. I've been working really hard and should the chance come, I'll be ready. I've put in a lot of hard work over the past few years and it would be great to get that reward. This week has had a different feeling about it - it's been different from preparing for a one-day series, maybe because I know there's a chance of me playing. Either way, it's a lot more intense and test cricket is serious business - proper cricket!

"I'm enjoying it immensely, though, and hope to get a proper taste of test cricket."

I must say he certainly did get a proper taste of Test cricket! Never a truer word spoken.

Posted by ian45 on (November 28, 2012, 7:40 GMT)

Fantastic article Mark, and just like your commentry I found it absolutely intreging, you are really one of the best in the business, you commentate on the game unlike certain others that almost pop a hemaroid if its not going there way, I think we know who I am reffering to, Mr cant let go of 1970 chappel

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 7:33 GMT)

What a journalist / commentator your are Mark. Fantastic! This article was beautifully written as you captured the emotion of the cricketing world in the epic battle between SA (Faf) and Oz. It was truly an heroic rearguard display in performance and mental strength by Faf, one which I hope will be embedded not just in the annals but in the psyche of the Proteas for a long time.

Posted by Nick636 on (November 28, 2012, 7:20 GMT)

Beautifully written Mark.

I think Faf deserved this a long time ago. South Africa (and the rest of the world) seem to be worrying about our luck of up-and-coming seeming all-rounders, but WHY?!?! We have 3 of the best pace bowlers in the world. On top of that, we have Faf (who started his career as a leg spinner and is CLEARLY handy with the bat (If not ALWAYS expected to be a "pinch hitter")) and Robin Petersen who is CLEARLY a better spin option than Imran Tahir. He is known to slow the scoring and take wickets when we REALLY need it! He is also handy with the bat, having saved us from a very sticky position on a few occasions...

So, the times they are a changing... SO WHAT?! Let them change. Let our quicks be quicks and play the spinners as relief. AND PLEASE, FOR GAWD SAKE, TEACH SMITH TO NOT GET FLUSTERED AND SET A PROPER FIELD!!!

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 7:01 GMT)

In society today the winner takes all theme applies to most aspects of our lives, but average mortals yearn to identify with the efforts of an epic survivor. I compare this test match to a pilgrimage to Bayreuth by the most cultivated to experience the Ring quartet Wagner opera to its cataclysmic conclusion over four days. The difference is that this battle in remotest Adelaide could be appreciated by a much larger less exclusive and mind you , no less cultivated audience. Although the conclusion of this Test Match was just as cataclysmic as Wagner, the suspenseful outcome stayed in doubt to the last over

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 6:22 GMT)

Faf that is.. Hopefully AB has found form now after facing so many deliveries. Although it seems not, too busy thinking about his footwork instead of playing his natural game

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 6:21 GMT)

Not taking anything away from Francois' effort - incredible it was.. Let's spare a moment for Abraham Benjamin de Villiers - this is a man who's been absolutely struggling this series, getting out very cheaply in every innings this series (hasn't score above 40 all series) and only thrice reached double figures) .. Although the stats/runs aren't on the board, his effort was a monumental one.. He set the tone with Faf and really put up a wall - ala Dravid - which was nearly impenetrable until P.Siddle came along and snuck one through.. Let's hope hes not a flash in the pan and gets a few more games from here on

Posted by VivtheGreatest on (November 28, 2012, 6:16 GMT)

Great article Mark, really sums up the beauty of Test Cricket-the real deal and congratulations to all the protagonists of an excellent match

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 5:57 GMT)

Great article, Mark. It is worth noting - as mentioned in the article - that if it was not for the DRS, du Plessis would have been incorrectly given out LBW twice by Billy Bowden, once when pitching outside leg, and again when the ball hit the full face of the bat without being near the pad, and the game would have been all over by tea. And we would have been robbed of the drama of this game, while more importantly perhaps, du Plessis would have been robbed of his glory. Surely it is time to make this system compulsory in all test matches?

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 5:56 GMT)

great article describing a great innings by an equally great man. need more like this for preserving the beauty of cricket.

Posted by Usmaan21 on (November 28, 2012, 4:23 GMT)

Very interesting mix of words Nic....Faf has done a marvellous job for Proteas....a drawn match but test cricket at its best.....

Posted by Gregg22 on (November 28, 2012, 4:10 GMT)

A little over the top if you ask me. But then again it's not like i could have said it any better so good on you sir. What i like about Mark as a South African supporter is that he seems to know quite a bit about the history of SA cricket judging by his commentary. And he doesn't look too shabby in a suit either ;)

Posted by pa99 on (November 28, 2012, 3:32 GMT)

a new cricket slang has entered the domain.

first there was MANKADed, then came the SLEDGE followed by the HARMY now we have the FAFF.

to be FAFFed - to snatch defeat (or a draw) from the jaws of victory !

Australia were well and truly FAFFed :)

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 2:43 GMT)

As an avid Aussie supporter, I sat, watched and admired Faf's monumental innings that saved South Africa from defeat. It was engrossing, particularly the last session. Good, hard test cricket! Great advertisement for the game. This piece of writing was top shelf stuff too, great read!

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 2:39 GMT)

Amidst sime horrible cricket writing a diamond in the rough. Cheannai Super Kings Grooms Stars. The reason Faf has done so well is the time he has spent with Chennai with the likes of MS, Mike Hussey and all the other Savy Veterans on that roster.

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 2:36 GMT)

that was a fantastic test cricket, with a bowler down, the SA team knew they had a chance of saving this test, we help them in a way by bowling Hilfy round the wicket for far far to long, Lyons and Siddle bowled fantastically to the defiant SA batsman, great Test series so far guys, cant wait for the 3rd, feel for Quiney, guess he didnt grab his oppitunity, i feel Starc will make a big impact in the 3rd test, big lefty who swings it at good pace and plenty of bounce and reverse swing, i like big John Hastings but he needs to be bowling at 140km not low 130km, good luck to MJ and i hope Ricky scores some runs.

Posted by insightfulcricketer on (November 28, 2012, 1:47 GMT)

Beautiful tribute to a heroic knock. Even while the test match for India-England was going on telly I was compelled to watch Faff and SAers play so unselfishly and solely for the team cause. Same goes for Siddle and rest of Australia yes they may not be as skilled as Warne or McGrath but they left their all on the field.Truly I was transfixed watching a gladitorial contest a beautiful game in Adelaide.Oh cricket!

Posted by Right_into_the_block_hole on (November 28, 2012, 1:22 GMT)

I over sped from work and ran into my house to see the last few overs of this match. The thrill of a tight test match is far greater then any other format. When you see hard work of five days and a close brings out the best of the best out of cricketers. A non cricket lover will never understand why is everybody son excited over a drawn match. Love test cricket!!

Posted by asifshoukat on (November 28, 2012, 0:46 GMT)

Well Done Mr. of the best I have ever read on espn!

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 0:38 GMT)

this has got to be one of the best written articles I've ever read on cricinfo. it's amazing how you took me back to the "old times". You know, I've always tried explaining to myself and others why I like test cricket. Sadly, I wasn't able to - i just kept on feeling the love for test cricket. but this sums it up i think: "If Test cricket goes, a piece of us goes with it. The piece that is patience, manners and respect; the piece that is without commerce at its core" Thanks for an amazing read.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (November 27, 2012, 23:33 GMT)

Surely one of the more remarkable feats in cricket. Sa have found themselves a Collingwood.

Posted by kempy21 on (November 27, 2012, 23:16 GMT)

Cheers Mark, great article. Really enjoy reading your stuff, you have a knack of encapsulating moments with wonderful language. Your appointment to Channel 9's commentary team a couple of years back was one of the best management decisions they have made in recent times. As an Australian I loved this Test despite the result. Faf's innings was simply amazing, sheer endurance effort. made all the more remarkable that he has been an explosive T20 and limited overs batsman, that innings seemed to go against everything that he was capable of. All you can do is simply stand and applaud such an effort. Adelaide is starting to develop a reputation of delivering "epic" matches. As a proud South Australian I am pretty excited about that too.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 22:57 GMT)

This test match had one of the best aggressive innings (Clarke Day 1) and one of the best defensive Innings (Faf Day 5) in the history of test crickets.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (November 27, 2012, 22:09 GMT)

If James Pattinson wasn't injured, this would have been all over a long time earlier. Or, of course, had the selectors picked one Mitchell Starc... But, that being said, South Africa had their fair share of injuries too, and you have to wonder why Rory Kleinveldt got a 2nd go - surely he won't play again. But Faf du Plessis was thought to be a poor decision too. After all, he is a limited overs specialist who is somewhat out of form. Much like Rob Quiney for Australia. But while Rob Quiney managed 2 ducks, a test average of 3, and will probably never play test cricket again, Faf finished with a test average of close to 200...

Posted by DJBOP_NZ on (November 27, 2012, 22:05 GMT)

Great article mark, you are truly a gifted writer and have a great knowledge of the game, it makes me wonder why you sell yourself short by jumping on the aussie bandwagon in the commentry box along with the less talented cheerleaders healy and slater!!. keep it up mark groovy baby.

Posted by Chris_P on (November 27, 2012, 22:04 GMT)

This is why test cricket is appealing. T20 & ODI stuff nearly always get consigned to the pile. Give me this cricket every time. I don't understand the whiners who complain about watching "boring" test cricket. Do they not have an "off" switch on their televisions?

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 22:03 GMT)

Reading it all the way, I kept feeling that WE are one crazy community spread majorly over 10 countries of the world & we're crazy about a sport which lasts 05 days without a result. One team comes out as winners eventually, but in the history its marked a DRAW. This is a feeling which no other sport can replace. Test cricket, we love you!!

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 21:23 GMT)

Very well written Mr. Nicolas.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 21:07 GMT)

a great piece of writing, really complemented the monumental and herculean effort by Du Plessis in his masterclass innings

Posted by Vikk on (November 27, 2012, 20:14 GMT)

Oh JP Duminy...will we ever see you again. Looks like Rudolphs days are numbered

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 20:01 GMT)

Treat to read Mark Nicholas! Praised Faff more than anyone back there. Delightful piece about someone who thoroughly deserves! Hats off fella!

Posted by noplay on (November 27, 2012, 18:53 GMT)

Well I'll be faffed. Top batting followed by top writing.

Posted by Philip_Gnana on (November 27, 2012, 18:16 GMT)

Test cricket at its best. Such a monumental feat on debut. Faf knew that he had in himself. His self belief. A match winner was Test cricket. No losers. Those who like to watch skiing and love it, will have a time in trying to explain the beauty of that sport just as we would find it difficult to explain the excitement of test cricket to them. Different hairdos and jewellery - LOL. Batting in the sweltering heat for almost 8 hours, deserves plaudits. How easy it is to write off players that we do not know much about in this format. Of course we know the player in other formats. Great entertainment and deservedly given the right plaudits in this article. Well done Mark, owning up too, to having not got your facts right. How many will own up to that. True Journalist and journalism too. Philip Gnana, New Malden Surrey.

Posted by stormy16 on (November 27, 2012, 17:33 GMT)

Faf was awesome and this guy is a super limited over player too and its great to see him play such a great back to the wall test knock. Interestingly on their last tour Dumminy played in place of injured Prince (I think) and made a huge impact and now Faf plays in place of the injured Dumminy with an instant impact.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 17:29 GMT)

Great innings, great test and a very well written article.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (November 27, 2012, 17:25 GMT)

Dear Mark,

A great article and enjoyable to read. It was a Heroic effort and as a South African made me so proud that in the midts of defeat someone like Faff answers the call - what a debut !

It is also so refershing to hear your commentary on Channel 9 which we get. The Ozzzie ex-player commentators are so horrifically bias you would think there is only one team playing. Its great to get your neutral stand point across from time to time.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 16:55 GMT)

A refreshingly good article Mr Nicholas, a touch of Cardus. Thank you.

Posted by chris54 on (November 27, 2012, 16:43 GMT)

My first thoughts upon reading this excellent article were to congratulate the writer. However I see that I am late to the party. It almost seems from the comments as if it were MN who had batted all day. All I can add is that his live commentary is every bit as good as his writing. With regard to movies, it also seems like he is a Julia Roberts fan.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 16:29 GMT)

Great article Mark regards Andre Bruyns. David recovering well.

Posted by Yevghenny on (November 27, 2012, 16:15 GMT)

batting efforts like this is what makes test cricket. It takes unbelievable guts and character to play an innings like this. Well done Faf

Posted by Wexfordwonder on (November 27, 2012, 16:04 GMT)

@ Biggus, could not agree more, the parochial stuff sticks in my craw too. Hope the next match holds as much intrigue as the previous one. For the record, i think the whole world ranking thing is, at the moment, a bit arbitrary and being ranked number one right now, means very little. Not until some team stamps their aithority on the game again ala Aus or WI.

Posted by perl57 on (November 27, 2012, 15:26 GMT)

Miighty great effort Faf. Can't write much of this writer coz he is just too extraordinarily simple. Great gentleman.

Posted by swat1999 on (November 27, 2012, 15:14 GMT)

If i say Faf Du Plessis is too good in his debiut also no good enough, he deserve more, he deserve more than any praise. He make Aussie bowlers cry. He never looked like that he may get himself out. His precious hundred is more valuable for South Africa than him. Its always looked that test century is not important for him but save the test match for South Africa was more important for him. He was stangnant too long in his 98 run he defend and defend never goes for his hundred soon, he makes Aussie captain hopeless. Thanks boss once again. I suggest all cricketers must take lesson from him how to save a test match

Posted by Ragstags on (November 27, 2012, 15:12 GMT)

I used to hate cricket. The most boring game in the world, or so I thought. Then came the Ashes when england won it for the first time in 18 years. I was stuck on a rig off NW Australia and it only had one small TV room so it was all that was on. I learnt a lot from another guy about the idiosyncrasies of the game, and what an ashes series it was. That hooked me on to test cricket, and not because I hale from the UK. It was just so exciting. This test was the simelar. If you need proof as to why test cricket is so great, seeing a draw being so magnificent was it. How often have I heard "How can a sport be any good if you can play for five days and not have a result?", well watch this test and you'll see. The yanks would never get it, in the same way they'd never understand why snooker is far superior to pool. Pool, like 50 overs and 20/20 are great games and very entertaining but compared to snooker and test cricket, well, they're for children who don't know any better.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 15:11 GMT)

superbly written, the words are almost alive.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 14:34 GMT)

whn he ran AB out in d 2011 WC qurtr final agnst NZ,i cursed faf d whole week for letting SA down yet agn but d way he batted yestrday he just deserves a hell lot of praise n respect...gr8 batsman be it T20, ODIs or test matches i just want 2 see SA lifting a world title now

Posted by PanGlupek on (November 27, 2012, 14:12 GMT)

Well written indeed, Mr Nicholas. After your last piece about the no-balls, I was expecting this to be a joke, but you're absolutely right to be praising Faf for that, and for pointing out that it's tests, not T20, that produce heros people will remember. I can't even remember who did well in the World T20 or CLT20 final, and they were only a month or two ago.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 14:10 GMT)

Thank you Mark Nicholas, for one of the best articles i have read, You have captured the essence and spirit of this great escape drama in Adelaide, aligned it to the dramatic turnaround in Mumbai to place Cricket as the King of sports.Cricket journalism has gained by your loss in not being selected to captain England

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 13:35 GMT)

As I have said before on this site, the number of Test matches I have attended at my home ground the Queens Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad between 1976 and 2012 Answer- 22. The number of T20's I have attended at the same venue. Answer-zero.

Posted by KrishIyengar on (November 27, 2012, 12:43 GMT)

An amazing test match, great play by both sides, outstanding match-saving innings by Faf and more importantly, a very nice article by a great gentleman. This is what makes cricket a great game, especially test matches. I sincerely hope that we see more and more matches like this one. Congratulations to both sides! Thanks to Mark for an excellent article!

Posted by Nduru on (November 27, 2012, 12:39 GMT)

Great article! Am I the only one who (aside from njr1330) is not surprised by Faf's performance? Ever since he came on the limited overs scene I really thought he looked a very solid, sensible, experienced and mature player. Sure, he mostly played T20s, but one could see in his demeanour that he would be much more than an Albie Morkel kind of slogger. Maybe its also because his fielding is so good that he reminds one more of a Jonty Rhodes or AB DeVilliers kind of player. Well done Faf.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 12:35 GMT)

Nicely written.

Contrast the Faf effort (he was cramping, had been out there forever and was farming strike when only 6 down) with Gambhir (who had just made 50-odd, was content to save his wicket and watched as the tail commit horrific mistakes). Justice was served when he was given out, and justice was served when India lost in such fashion.

Posted by Fireballz on (November 27, 2012, 12:34 GMT)

The Du Plessis - De Villiers stand was heart breaking for this Australian to see. A well written peice but don't forget Jaques Rudolph's immense effort in Perth (I think it was 2005?) to deny Australia in simular circumstances. It truly will take everything we have to wrestle the #1 spot off this proud team. I hope the next test does not bring another Rudolph/Du Plessis/Smith effort!

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 12:34 GMT)

what an article? I can't wait to listen to his great voice on 9 again on friday. this is what cricket is all about. FAF is my new God, just love evrything abt him....

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 12:10 GMT)

Great writing Mr. Nicholas. @ Biggus and HatsforBats - loved your comments. "gold plated test cricket" "hard but fair", "two sunburnt southern lands giving it their all". Seems everyone is a poet today. I am just relieved the Protea's got out of jail. The fighting spirit of the Australians and the determination of the saffers was fantastic to watch. I hope Perth is going to deliver what we all know is possible - an epic.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 12:06 GMT)

what is it about AUS/SA series that produce such drama and wonderful cricket?ever since that 1999 world cup semi-final there always seems to be some sort of record-breaking or career-defining performances that are burned into the mind forever!wonderful innings Faf, and also Pup on his amazing innings too.Can't wait for Perth!!!!

Posted by Engr.TahirShah on (November 27, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

Brilliant article, well done Mark. Absolutely right, the determination and love of that man towards his home land, all through his innings was just unparallel. I haven't seen an innings of purpose as good as that innings from Faf in the last 10 to 15 years, I have been watching cricket. It was an immense innings and gave me more pleasure ultimately when Faf actually achieved his goal, than a Pakistan victory would have given. This is the beauty and charm of test cricket. I will remember this innings for the rest of my life. An examplary innings by an examplary person with examplary passion, patience and love towards his country. Thanks Faf for your effort and the sweet memories that will leave in memories forever.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (November 27, 2012, 11:52 GMT)

The whole day was fascinating, and the last hour was so tense it was difficult to watch. Enjoyed the change in tone of the Aussie commentators, already celebrating the win in the first session, a bit nervous suddenly in the 2nd session, resigned at the end.

Posted by Biggus on (November 27, 2012, 11:41 GMT)

@Wexfordwonder-Just love the game mate. I'm a bit past all this parochial stuff and while it's nice to win I value a tough, close contest far more highly. The last two summers here have been disappointing, firstly because we were insufficiently competitive in the Ashes, mostly because England played too well for us to get into the series, and secondly because of India's tame surrender last year. This is more like it. This is gold-plated test cricket, just the way it's supposed to be, hard but fair, and I'm loving it.

Posted by philvic on (November 27, 2012, 11:39 GMT)

Really good article. I must admit I underrated him too, especially after seeing his efforts in ODI series in England this year. I didnt know he had it in him.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 11:37 GMT)

Hat off to you, Mr. Nicholas.

A thoroughly enjoyable - and eloquently put - passage.

Could hear your voice, as was reading.

Keep it up.

Posted by HatsforBats on (November 27, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

I was astounded by his composure. When his hundred came up I thought that might have been his downfall, a loss of application for just one second while contemplating his personal achievement. But no. Fortune favours the brave. The pitch didn't deteriorate as per the norm, a spearhead lost, and technology had its say. Well played Faf. This is why Aus vs. SA is the best, two sunburnt southern lands giving their all.

Posted by njr1330 on (November 27, 2012, 11:16 GMT)

Ten years ago, Faf played league cricket for Liverpool and for Todmorden. We knew exactly how good he was! MN, if you want to find the Test players of tomorrow, then see who the northern leagues are signing today. We simply cannot afford to get it wrong!!

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 11:15 GMT)

I think faf surprised a lot of us south africans too. We always saw him as a bits and pieces player ala... albie morkel. I hope he kicks on from here. He's still a relatively unknown factor which works in his favor for now.

Posted by miyabhaifromhyderabad on (November 27, 2012, 11:12 GMT)

"Behind every good team is a good bench" - nice line...Awesome article...Well written!!

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 11:02 GMT)

Fantastic piece of prose Mark, and totally agree. Speaking as a neutral, Faf is my new favourite character of the game.

Posted by KPWij on (November 27, 2012, 10:57 GMT)

Great article about a fantastic cricketer as well as the justification for why test cricket is the best entertainment out there... I listened to the game on ABC radio stuck in the middle of heavy traffic on the motorway, but for once, I enjoyed myself thoroughly on a 2hr commute home listening to the drama. Proud of the Aussies, and in awe of the grit of the South Africans. And finally Faff gets the recognition he deserves, has been an immense player in the South African domestic scene and throughout IPL tournaments. The ideal role model for any young cricketer.

Posted by Mervo on (November 27, 2012, 10:53 GMT)

Apparently he was about to be poached by England to play for them. The usual process there. I am sure he is glad that he held off. Duminy might not get back for a while.

Posted by BRUTALANALYST on (November 27, 2012, 10:53 GMT)

Good read , "one yearned for the pre-hard-hat days, those days without helmets, when the eyes and expressions of the cricketers drove our fancy." I think helmets need to be banned to save the "test" format one cannot be truly "tested" by pace with helmets the excitement,danger and adrenalin is what the people came to watch ! I find it funny how English guys behind Fire In Babylon and all the love it got with calls willing to return to those days from fans ironic as the laws England and ICC introduced (reduced no of bouncers, helmets better protection, bigger lighter bats all have played a huge part in destroying the most exciting part of TEST Cricket !

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 10:42 GMT)

His first name is Francois. Faf is only a nickname.

Posted by Wexfordwonder on (November 27, 2012, 10:40 GMT)

@Biggus Now that is a sporting comment f ever I heard one, nice one mate.

Posted by Biggus on (November 27, 2012, 10:16 GMT)

No doubt about it, he played one of the great rearguard innings of test cricket, and whilst it might have been nice to knock them over and win this isn't so bad either. In our T20 obsessed times such an obdurate innings is not only unfashionable but rare as well, and coming from a debutant with a penchant for going after the bowling makes it all the more remarkable. Yes indeed, we're bloody impressed, well done Senor Du Plessis, your effort rounded out a most entertaining game that was in no way diminished by ending in a draw, but rather lifted into the pantheon of amazing games of Test Cricket by your refusal to succumb. I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed two consecutive drawn tests so much.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 9:59 GMT)

Probably one of the finest pieces of cricket writing I've read. Well said, sir!

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Mark NicholasClose
Mark Nicholas A prolific and stylish middle-order batsman for Hampshire, Mark Nicholas was unlucky never to have played for England, but after captaining his county to four major trophies he made his reputation as a presenter, commentator and columnist. Named the UK Sports Presenter of the Year in 2001 and 2005 by the Royal Television Society, he has commentated all over the world, from the World Cup in the West Indies to the Indian Premier League. He now hosts the cricket coverage for Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in England.

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