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Feature

'I've thought about it my whole life' - Rassie van der Dussen's itch for a Test hundred

An international century has remained elusive in 45 innings

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
01-Feb-2021
Rassie Van der Dussen wants to follow the process  •  PCB

Rassie Van der Dussen wants to follow the process  •  PCB

There are some things about Rawalpindi that remind Rassie van der Dussen of home. "It's quite chilly and the outfield is quite hard," he said on Monday. "My first thought was that it feels a bit like a winter game back in South Africa on the Highveld."
Of course it's not often that cricket is played in the cooler months (mid-September to early April) in South Africa. They expected Pakistan to be similar - green-tinged wickets and lush outfields - and downplayed the spin threat at first, but looks have been deceiving. The conditions have proved to be "polar opposite to what we find at home," according to van der Dussen, who is on his first overseas Test tour.
While the weather in Islamabad is inviting, he believes the surface for the second Test will continue to challenge the visiting batsmen.
"It looks like most of the grass has been taken off and how hard they will make it is difficult to say at this stage. My first impression is that they won't be much for the new ball," van der Dussen said. "There was a fair amount of reverse in the first match, so I wouldn't say it will play more of a role. I think it will play the same role."
Van der Dussen was one of three South African batsmen - the other two being Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram (Temba Bavuma to a lesser extent) - who had some measure of conditions in Karachi. He believes the main difference between playing at home and playing in Pakistan is the bounce.
"There is a little less bounce in the subcontinent and the spinners start bowling quite early on so the ball is newish," he said. "In South Africa when spinners bowl with the new ball, they get a lot more bounce which brings the slip into play but sometimes takes the lbw out of play.
"In the subcontinent, all dismissals are in play all of the time. Because the ball is not bouncing over the stumps, you have to set yourself up to counter being bowled and lbw and there are also catchers around the bat. That's the major difference. Every ball, all dismissals are in play."
As it turned out, that included the run-out, which is how van der Dussen' first innings ended. He called it an "unnecessary," dismissal and one that added to the  "conglomerate of circumstances," that resulted in South Africa being bowled out for 220.
"It's disappointing because we had really good preparation. We prepared in pretty bad conditions and that's what we got," van der Dussen said, referring to spinner-friendly practice pitches which South Africa have taken to describing as bad. "We had the right game plan but it's maybe the execution that was lacking and responsibility.
"We can't run away from that. A few of us got in and got starts. We needed to put pressure on the batting team. We knew we needed 350 and if we could have batted the whole day, we would have got there. It was a combination of good bowling, indecision from the new guys and run outs that shouldn't happen."
Similarly, van der Dussen wants more for himself, especially as an international hundred remains elusive after 45 innings at the highest level. He has five Test fifties and has been dismissed for 98 once and seven ODI half-centuries and has been dismissed in the 90s twice. Reaching three figures is now top of his mind. "It's definitely something I think about," he said. "I've thought about it probably for my whole life."
"I am a believer in what will happen, will happen. If I can keep putting myself in situations to come close, I back myself to get there. You can't go out on a certain day and say I am going to score a hundred. You've got to try and be consistent in your process every ball and in your mental discipline and give yourself a chance to succeed every ball.
"If you do that through the day you will face 200-250 balls which is what's needed for a hundred in the subcontinent. I'm feeling good, I am batting well, let's hope it comes. I can't say if it will come this game or that game or whenever. There's no guarantees in life and in cricket. I will keep putting in the work to give myself the best chance."
South Africa are waiting on the fitness of Dean Elgar (bruised hand) Tabraiz Shamsi, who was withdrawn from the XI  at the last moment when he pulled up with a back spasm.
"It's a shame that Shamsi got injured on the first morning. I think he would have played a big role, and he will if he's right for this (second) Test," van der Dussen said. "I don't think George [Linde] got as many opportunities to bowl as he would have hoped in Karachi. He's bowling very nicely and he's a tall guy who gets extra bounce that Keshav doesn't get, and that makes him dangerous. I honestly think our spinners are equipped to take them on."
Whether South Africa opt to field all three specialist spinners, as they were planning to in Karachi, remains to be seen. If they do, their team composition would be completely different to a team they would field at home, even on a winter's day in the Highveld. So Rawalpindi might have elements of same, same;  but there's no doubt it is entirely different to Johannesburg.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent