In a low-scoring series being played between teams who possess strong bowling line-ups, Faf du Plessis ended a woeful recent run with a fluent fifty in the third ODI on Wednesday. It laid the platform for South Africa to score a competitive 259, a total which proved to be too much for Pakistan, as South Africa eased to a 2-1 series lead.
South Africa captain AB de Villiers had plenty of batting concerns to deal with, having played without Hashim Amla in the first two ODIs, an out-of-form du Plessis and Colin Ingram and a struggling middle order against a quality spin attack. Du Plessis made 55 off 60, a half-century after 11 ODI innings, following a promotion to No. 3 in place of JP Duminy.
His last half-century came against Netherlands in May and the one prior to that was against New Zealand nearly 11 months ago. He couldn't convert the starts into big scores at home against Pakistan earlier this year and later in the Champions Trophy. In the five ODIs in Sri Lanka, he did not even get the starts, averaging 11.40 with a high score of 23.
"I feel like a new man," du Plessis said. "I was feeling the pressure. It was important for me to put a performance in. As a player, you always want to be affecting the result in a game.
"In these conditions, to lead them [Pakistan] 2-1 in the series is very important. But also we've got a slight bad habit in the last two years - when we've won one game and we lose the next one. So it's important for us to make sure the next game we can win the series and put the nail through the coffin."
De Villiers was also pleased with du Plessis' innings which helped the middle-order build a strong total. Du Plessis produced a 77-run stand with Quinton de Kock for the second wicket before Duminy and de Villiers steered the innings with scores of 64 and 34, respectively.
"He [du Plessis] was under pressure to perform and that's how big players perform," de Villiers said. "We want to come with the same kind of energy in the next match to win the series here itself in the next ODI."