CAPE TOWN – Two years ago Faf du Plessis sat down in the dungeons of the Bellerive Oval marvelling over a Test series win over Australia with Kyle Abbott beside him.
Yesterday he was back there, with that very same charming Cheshire grin, basking once more in the success of his team after South Africa completed a monumental one-day international series victory over the arch-enemy.
Only this time, he was sharing the spotlight with southpaw slugger David Miller after the pair shared a record 252-run partnership that powered the Proteas to a 40-run and 2-1 series victory.
Abbott, though, is of course no longer part of Du Plessis’ arsenal with the paceman opting to pursue a Kolpak career shortly after his Hobart heroics in 2016.
But that has by no means diminished the potency of Du Plessis’ artillery. In fact, on the basis of yesterday’s “ruthless” display, the skipper may just have the firepower that could lead all the way to World Cup glory next June and July.
Spin, and particularly mystery spin, may be the rage of modern limited-overs cricket, but the Proteas’ traditional strength has always been the quality of their fast men.
Under the mentorship of coach, and fast bowling guru Ottis Gibson, this was only going to be heightened, and it is the likes of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi who are benefiting.
At 35, and finally fully-fit, Steyn seems to be enjoying a new lease of life under Gibson’s tutelage, while the two young tearaways are soaking up the Barbadian’s wise words. And much to Du Plessis’ pleasure - and most likely Gibson’s too - the students are passing their examinations under intense pressure.
Yesterday in Hobart, Shaun Marsh (106) and Marcus Stoinis (63) were trying with all their might to pull Australia off the canvas to push not only for a series victory, but more importantly to restore much-needed pride and respectability to the nation’s No 1 sport that had been punched in the stomach so many times over recent months.
But Steyn (3/45), Rabada (3/40), Ngidi (1/40) and all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius (2/61) ensured Du Plessis (125) and Miller’s (139) pyrotechnics of earlier in the day was not laid to waste with a supreme spell of death bowling in the final 10 overs.
“I thought we played our best game of cricket. We challenged ourselves to put in a performance. A high pressure game. From a batting point of view we were, but from a death-bowling point of view we were excellent,” Du Plessis said.
“It was really good that we could get tested against two set batsmen and the way we responded was great to see. Myself and Dave had to somehow get a score together, we talked about trying to get to 240, but with Dave’s power we were able to get going.
“We’ll remember this place fondly.”
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