at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Dear Francois “Faf” du Plessis, I’m sorry. I was wrong and boy, did you prove it in Adelaide on Monday.
Two weeks ago in this space I wrote you didn’t deserve a spot in the starting XI for the second Test against Australia.
I based this on the fact that, well, you’d shown very little form with the bat in the last six months and that you’d last played a first-class match towards the end of last season. In fact, until the warm-up game against Australia A at Sydney before the first Test, your “game time” had consisted of one-dayers and T20 matches – a lot of T20 matches.
I had, as it turns out, wrongly assumed this was no way to ready oneself for the rigours of a Test match. I mean 85 minutes of hit-and-giggle cannot prepare one for 466 minutes of block, block, block, block, cramp, block, cramp, cramp and some more blocks.
But you were certainly prepared and you proved me very wrong.
My argument at the time for your exclusion from the starting line-up was based on some sound reasons. Your good pal Abraham Benjamin de Villiers hasn’t been at his best with the bat since taking over as Test wicketkeeper in England.
Now I know the data sample for De Villiers as keeper/batsman is small (just five Tests) but those have been important matches and this is an important tour, which is why I reckoned Thami Tsolekile deserved to wear the gloves to allow De Villiers – I hoped – to focus just on his batting. Tsolekile had also played some first-class cricket for the Highveld Lions this season and in some tough circumstances made useful runs for them.
I never thought you had it in you, to be honest, not with a reputation that in recent seasons has been built on performances in the limited-overs formats. Admittedly you were very good for the Titans, but by comparison, domestic one-day cricket and Test cricket … well there’s no comparing is there?
It was a truly remarkable effort right up there with some of the great post-isolation salvaging knocks by a South African – Clive Eksteen in Sri Lanka in 1993/94, Jacques Kallis in Melbourne in 1997/98, Gary Kirsten at Kingsmead in 1999/2000, Jacques Rudolph in Perth in 2005/06 and Neil McKenzie at Lord’s in 2008.
I suppose it will be hard to drop you now, and I for one won’t be advocating such a move. I’ve been put in my place. Once again, sorry, and well played, meneer.