Adelaide – One of my favourite tweets following South Africa’s great escape on Monday was from the Proteas’ assistant coach, Russell Domingo: “What the Faf happened?” he cheekily asked his followers.
Well Faf du Plessis, hero and Man of the Match in the drawn second Test, made his appearance onMonday at the post-match press conference to tell us exactly what happened on one of the great days in South African cricket.
The 28-year-old from Pretoria completed one of the most remarkable debuts of modern Test cricket, scoring 78 in his team’s first innings and a remarkable 110 not out in seven-and-a-half hours in the second knock.
Du Plessis’s innings represented the spine of the South African response to the always unlikely task of scoring a record-breaking 430 for victory.
As it turned out, South Africa finished with 248/8 in 148 overs of intense Test cricket, achieving an unlikely draw against the Aussies and keeping their dream of a series win alive for Perth.
Looking exhausted but still in full possession of his droll sense of humour, Du Plessis spoke about his epic.
On whether he finds Test cricket easy: “No, not at all, my body doesn’t tell me that. But it just goes to show what you can handle if you’re mentally strong enough. In about the last hour or so I started cramping. They [the Aussies] thought I was wasting time!”
On coming in to bat in the second innings, after tripping on the stairs for the first innings and being worried about being timed out after having issues with his boot: “I took my time going down the stairs this time.”
On his game plan: “I just tried to keep it very simple, taking it hour by hour. The end of the match seemed a long way away on Sunday afternoon. I was very grateful for the help of the other batters, particularly Jacques Kallis. They really helped a lot; I had a lot of questions for them and they kept me calm, particularly in the 90s.
“I was going through a lot of emotions and I had big goose bumps. I just said to myself, don’t think too much of your hundred, just let it come to you. It’s all about the team, and they want you to be defensive and not lose your wicket, so just wait for it.”
How it felt as the day approached its climax: “When Morne [Morkel] came in with eight wickets down I could see that he was quite nervous. I tried to keep him calm because I knew the kind of pressure he was under, that if he got out he carried the whole weight of the nation’s hopes on his shoulders.
“But Morne played beautifully. He played two straight drives, and I went up to him and said: ‘Keep playing straight’, and he replied: ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got this.’”
About the Aussie sledging: “Unlike in my first innings, the Aussies just didn’t stop today. They kept chatting in my ear the whole day. They were obviously getting frustrated because they couldn’t get us out, but credit to them for speaking the whole day!” (burst of laughter from the press corps).
What it was like being in the 90s?
“It felt like forever. I got to 96 and 98 and that was the stage when I said to myself that I was one boundary away from getting a hundred, so please bowl me a half-volley. But I quickly realised that it doesn’t work like that in Test cricket. And then I thought that it was all about the team’s goal, not mine, so getting the hundred took a bit longer.”
About batting with his school chum AB de Villiers: “Last night [Sunday night] after we got back to the hotel, there were a couple of tweets which said: ‘Affies against Australia’. That was quite cool.”
How he feels about his achievement of becoming the fourth South African to score a century on debut, and to be the man of the match: “It was great to get an opportunity to be with the squad. I would have been happy to just be part of the team in Australia, but it’s nice that when I got the opportunity, I used it very well.” – The Mercury