CAPE TOWN – Faf du Plessis is a man for the big occasion. And they don’t come much bigger than the New Year Test at Newlands.
Du Plessis lapped up the festive atmosphere here on Friday to stroke a masterful century, mixing grit and courage with sublime artistry.
His efforts were certainly appreciated by the knowledgeable Cape Town crowd, as they rose in unison to applaud the skipper all the way back to the pavilion when he was eventually dismissed for 103 off 226 balls.
Du Plessis found an able partner in Temba Bavuma as the pair shared a 156-run partnership for the fifth-wicket to power South Africa to 382/6 at stumps.
“I thought Faf was excellent today, and I thought the temperament he showed through the day was outstanding. I really do,” said Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur.
Having shared centre-stage with his captain for most of the day, Bavuma offered equally high praise for the Proteas leader.
“It was a mammoth innings from him,” Bavuma said. “I think between us, he probably took more blows to the body and faced more balls that reared past his helmet a lot more. But he still managed to stay focused and commit to the next ball.
“We just tried to stay positive and tried to keep the intensity up and remind each that when the bad ball is there, try and put it away.
“It was nice batting with him because he is the one batter that is willing to share his gameplans in what he is trying to do to the bowlers.
“That allows you to evaluate your own gameplan and keep you in check. He is a calming influence, and that is possibly his biggest trait as a batsman and as our leader,” he added.
WATCH: Temba Bavuma @tbavuma10 speaks about his partnership with #Proteas captain Faf du Plessis @faf1307 against Pakistan at Newlands today @IOLsport @IOL #SAvPAK #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/jzU7il0yPW— Ashfak Mohamed (@ashfakmohamed) January 4, 2019
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Bavuma (75) benefited from two decisions that were overturned by the third umpire, with firstly the television replays once again ruling in favour of the batsman when an Azhar Ali slip “catch” was initially given the soft signal of “out”, and then later having an lbw appeal overturned.
But despite his good fortune, Bavuma could once again not convert a promising half-century into a three-figure score, with his lone Test hundred still being the epic struck against England at this very ground three years ago almost to the day.
“I always try to contribute to the team. I am a batter and I am a fielder, and that’s all I have to do. So, I just try to contribute to the team. I haven’t been able to cross the three-figure mark and I don’t know... I could be asking you guys for the answers,” Bavuma quipped.
“But I think as long as I am contributing to the cause of the team, and the guys are happy with my commitment and effort, I can also sleep with a smile on my face.”
Despite there being a couple of batsmen in the Proteas change-room with a few bruises, it is the South Africans who all went to bed smiling on Friday night after stretching their lead to 205 runs, with the dangerous Quinton de Kock still at the crease on 55.
Thank you everyone for the messages of congrats . Can’t reply to you all but have seen them and appreciate it. Great 2 days so far... Looking forward to day 3 🇿🇦🔥— Faf Du Plessis (@faf1307) January 4, 2019