Faf du Plessis has praised the manner in which South Africa won the first Test against Bangladesh but not the surface on which it was played. After asking for a pitch with pace and bounce, South Africa got a flat track - partly because that is what Potchefstroom usually produces; partly because it's early season and the rains have only just arrived - which Bangladesh said reminded them of home.
"I have always been a guy that's very honest in reflection," du Plessis said." If it was a good wicket, I praise and I give credit. But conditions-wise when you play countries like Bangladesh, it is important that you try and make sure whatever you get from the wicket gives your team some sort of advantage. There wasn't much advantage for any team in these conditions. The good thing was that the groundsman said the wicket won't spin and for three-and-a-half days or probably four days, the wicket didn't spin off the straight so that was pleasing to see. We got that right."
Still, South Africa managed to make things work in their favour. After being put in, they only lost three wickets in racking up 496 runs. The bowlers worked hard against an initially patient Bangladesh line-up that achieved its highest total in South Africa and then a recklessly rushed one that was bowled out for 90 in 32.4 overs.
"Our bowlers made changes, they adapted beautifully, they were consistent in their areas and we put Bangladesh under pressure for five days," du Plessis said, admitting he sensed a second-innings collapse could come on the last morning. "Over four days, we had Bangladesh under so much pressure and we did all the hard work that if we got one or two early doors, we expected the pressure would be too much and they would fall over. We didn't expect it to happen that quickly but that's how it works in Test cricket. You are unlucky for a while, you do the hard graft without a lot of results and then all of sudden it just happens for you."
Though du Plessis' assessment of South Africa's performance as "spotless," did not take into account into the dropped catches, it could be forgiven because they were without the leader of the attack, Morne Morkel, in their final push for victory. After taking the first two wickets in Bangladesh's second innings and missing a third through overstepping, Morkel left the field with a side strain after bowling 5.2 overs. He will not return until mid-November, which rules him out of the rest of the Bangladesh tour.
Morkel has been added to an injury list that includes Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Chris Morris, which robs South Africa of almost all their first-choice bowlers. Kagiso Rabada will have to step into the spearhead role and while South Africa have some options around the domestic scene, du Plessis admitted he doesn't really know who may be next in line. The selectors have decided it is Dane Paterson, who was added to the squad on Monday afternoon.
"It's difficult to talk about all the domestic bowlers that are around," du Plessis said. "I haven't seen enough to make a fair call on what I think the standard of bowling is and who the best seam bowlers in the country are. I know the guys that are with us the majority of the time and we've got a few guys in and around the squad that I know exactly what they bring to the team and to the party. Outside of that, I haven't seen a lot of red ball cricket."
South Africa have only had two rounds of their first-class competition and all six matches have been dominated by batsmen. Du Plessis indicated any inclusion to the squad will be a "back-up," which could mean a comeback for Wayne Parnell - who is already in the squad - and more work for young allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo, rather than a debut for Paterson.
Phehlukwayo only bowled seven overs on debut and showed great control but du Plessis sees him as more of a batting-allrounder in future. "Stats won't tell you the story of the quality of batsman I think he can be," du Plessis said. "That's why he is filling that No.7 role, which is a really important position when it comes to the balance of the side. Generally when you have a fourth seamer and a No.7 batsman, his workload would be more on the batting front. And if you are needed from a fourth seamer perspective, you will bowl some overs. In the first innings, we didn't bowl a lot of overs so his workload would have been less. Today, if we would have bowled without Morne, he would have bowled a lot of overs."
That time may come on Friday, when the second Test starts and South Africa seek a series win.