Faf Du Plessis collapsed on his back when he had managed to reach the South African changeroom yesterday afternoon, three overs and one ball before the end of the first of just two Sunfoil Tests against India had ended, and after playing an innings that was, like this magnificent Test, one for the ages.
He had walked off the field a mentally and physically broken man, too discombobulated to have a chat with Dale Steyn as he walked to take his place at the crease. “I was just looking at the TV like this,” said Du Plessis, doing a passable imitation of the Rain Man. He watched as India bowled two maidens, bouncing Steyn and then trying to entice Vernon Philander into taking a single that would have exposed Steyn to the excellent Mohammed Shami in the last over.
“It was really tough for Dale to play at six or seven runs an over,” said Du Plessis. “There was consistent, good bounce outside the off-stump. If you put Monnas (Morné Morkel) in there with his sore ankle …”
Morkel, with his injured ankle strapped, was padded up in the changeroom and so, too, was Imran Tahir. Philander and Steyn were, essentially, South Africa’s last batting pair, said captain Graeme Smith. It was they, combined with India also refusing to go for the win, who made the choice to see out the match. “Faf getting run-out in the end created an unfortunate situation. And ultimately the guys out in the middle made a decision that they thought was in the best interests of the team. With Morné struggling to stand and no ability to run between wickets, and also Imy (pauses and smiles), y’know, he would probably say to himself … you’re not too sure what you are going to get from him.
“We as a team have to support the decision that Dale and Vern made in the middle. With two overs to go, with one Test match to play in the series and the opportunity to go and win the series in Durban, we have to 100percent believe in the decision they made,” said Smith, who was both booed and cheered at the end of the match as some fans believed the team should have tried harder to go for the win. There was no message from the team to shut up shop in the last few overs,” said Smith. “The message was to set it up for the last over. Then there were a couple of maidens that were bowled, which made it difficult. Ultimately, we wanted to give Vern the opportunity to win the game. But that never happened. You can’t send out messages between overs. That’s not allowed. The strength of this team is that there are good decision makers. That’s how we’ve got to No1 – trusting one another and our decisions.
“I understand the emotional side. The context was that it was an unbelievable Test match. From day two we’ve been behind the game. I don’t think many people gave us a chance to be in this position. As a team we showed real mental strength and the ability to get the job done. We’ve seen two of the greatest Test innings in recent history. So I think we need to appreciate the effort, and I hope people can, through the emotion of always wanting more, can see and respect the efforts the team has certainly put in.”
It had been an extraordinary Test match. India believed they had dominated for four days, Smith said India had been in charge from the second day. Either way, South Africa had been written off until Du Plessis and AB de Villiers set about dismantling records and working out the Indian bowlers.
Du Plessis said he was pleased and disappointed in equal measure, and wondered how different things would have been had he hit Zaheer Khan back over his head instead of attempting the single that got him run out.
Virat Kohli, named Man of the Match, said that while he had been “surprised” that South Africa had not chased the win, but said it was a “fair result”. - The Star