"My best." That's where Faf du Plessis rated this century -- his second at Adelaide and sixth overall. It came after a week of intense scrutiny over du Plessis' methods of shining the ball, a week in which he was found guilty by the ICC and fined, a week in which he made headlines for all the wrong reasons. His team-mates stood steadfastly behind him and he saw this innings as his chance to stand steadfastly ahead of them.
"I'm just pretty proud of today. It was a big day for me to stand up as a captain and make sure I lead from the front," he said. "To get through all of that and this week in the manner that I did today makes me really proud."
Du Plessis expected some heat when he made his first public appearance -- he had addressed the media the day before -- but he was surprised that, after he stood alone to take South Africa's total over 250, he was not wholeheartedly forgiven.
"I was expecting a little bit of hostility but not to that extent," he said. "When I came out, I was obviously quite aware of it [the booing]. As the innings went on, it disappeared a bit. To be really honest, when I got to 100 I wasn't expecting to still get booed so that was disappointing."
It also added a little to du Plessis' already immense desire to do his talking with the bat. "I was really motivated before today. I felt it was a character test and the only way I could do it is by scoring runs but it did help a little bit. Maybe 5%."
What helped more was that du Plessis was more focused than he has been ever before. The pink ball seamed and then swung, it also turned; the Australia attack searched and, in the case of most of his team-mates, found; but du Plessis had promised himself he would not give it away easily. "I have never been that switched on. Every ball I said to myself, 'that is not enough. I want to get a big one here.' I was just more motivated than I have ever been," he said. "Surprisingly, technically I was the best I have been this series as well. I felt really good."
Before this innings, du Plessis' contribution was a top score of 37 and he did not seem to have the same control he has displayed in the past. Today, his defences could not be breached but he also looked to score. He was not the same batsman who stonewalls for fun, he was someone who had purpose and, if he had more partners, he would have carried on. "I could have gone for another day. I really wanted to bat. The way I felt mentally I could have gone for a week," du Plessis said.
But with the chance to put Australia in under lights and make some early inroads, du Plessis decided not to search for an extra 20 or 30 runs and take advantage of a situation in which Australia were forced to seek an emergency opener. Du Plessis knew David Warner had spent time off the field and could not bat, he wanted to see if his bowlers could make the ball talk at night and, with the knowledge that 224 was the top score in last year's day-night Test in Adelaide, he felt a total over 250 was good enough.
"The position of the game was that it was time for us to declare. We were trying to get some wickets," he said. "I don't think we would have declared if we were seven down in the last hour of the night. We would have tried to get to 300. We got 250 but it feels like we got more. It isn't a massive score but the statistics of the pink ball says it may not generally be a five-day game. It speeds up a little because there is a lot more action on the ball - 250 is perhaps 350 with the red ball."