Faf du Plessis: The trusted second fiddle
South Africa skipper, Faf du Plessis has been enjoying a good series against India. The right-hander has had three good innings, 62, 63, and 48 to his credit. His runs tally (173) in the series is only behind AB de Villiers (200) and Virat Kohli (191). Although he has been instrumental in the series triumph, he is overshadowed by his more decorated teammate, Mr.360.
When you just look at the numbers, you may not be able to see the impact made by du Plessis. So, let us take a closer look at how he has helped SA:
When he walked out to bat in the first innings of the first Test in Cape Town, his side was struggling at 12/3, thanks to an incredible opening spell by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. One more wicket at that stage could have made things worse.
He, however, built a match-winning 114-run partnership with the counter-attacking ABD at the other end. India were not able to break the partnership quickly and that cost them dearly in the match. De Villiers scored 84-ball 65 while du Plessis made 62 off 104 balls.
Second Test, Centurion
Aiden Markram (94) and Hashim Amla (82) helped SA to a great start in the first innings. At 199-3, the skipper walked in. He added 47 runs with Amla for the fourth wicket. It looked as if SA were all set for a mammoth total; however, they lost Quinton de Kock (0) and Vernon Philander (0) cheaply. They had a mini-collapse from a strong position of 246-3 to 251-6 and all the specialist batsmen were back in the hut except du Plessis.
India thought it was the opening they were looking for and could run through the tail easily. But Du Plessis played a captain’s knock by adding 31 runs with Keshav Maharaj (18) and 42 runs with Kagiso Rabada (11). When he was dismissed as the ninth batsman at 333-9, he had already helped SA to achieve a respectable total.
In the second Innings, he came at the crease at 144-3 when de Villiers made a walk back to the pavilion after scoring a fine 80. The hosts lost Dean Elgar (61) and de Kock (12) quickly as well.
Rebuilding was the need of the hour. Having found out run making was difficult, Faf decided to hang in at one end. He added 46 runs with Vernon Philander in 156 balls. Even though the partnership didn’t yield many runs, it aggravated the visitors.
After the dismissal of Philander, du Plessis built small but useful partnerships with Maharaj and Rabada. Before getting out as the ninth batsman, he ensured SA have more than enough runs to challenge India. He neither scored a hundred nor a fifty, yet his patient 48 off 141 balls made a significant impact in trying circumstances.
Cricket is a team game and team effort can undo individual brilliance. Hardik Pandya’s 93 in the first Test and Kohli’s 153 in the second Test were the highest individual scores from either side. But they ended up on the losing side. Why? They didn’t have a trusted second fiddle like du Plessis.