JOHANNESBURG – Faf Du Plessis praised his side’s intensity in the opening one-day international against Sri Lanka yesterday which helped the Proteas to secure a comfortable eight-wicket win at the start of the five-match series.
It’s been a difficult few weeks for the South African captain following the Proteas’ shock Test series defeat to the Sri Lankans, but the change of format, personnel and some hard training sessions helped narrow the focus yesterday.
“We got our energy and intensity right through some hard training this week. It was really pleasing to see the things that are important to us working; getting wickets with the ball, bowling them out and then we were very convincing with the bat,” said Du Plessis.
It was a comprehensive all-round display with Imran Tahir and Lungi Ngidi leading the way with the ball, while Du Plessis and Quinton de Kock’s magnificent form with the bat saw South Africa overcome Sri Lanka’s below par target of 232 with 67 balls to spare.
“It was a very ‘sub-continent-ish’ pitch,” Du Plessis said of a surface on which Sri Lanka were bowled out for 231 in 47 overs. Tahir produced his performance of the summer, picking up 3/26, while Ngidi, in his first game back for the national side since injuring his knee in Australia, claimed 3/60.
“Immy (Tahir) will be the first to say he’s not been at his best this season. But with an experienced player, you know a good performance is just around the corner. We’ve been working hard in the nets with him to get the shape of the ball better, and through practice this week he was really good. That was the Immy of old, the Immy that has won us games single-handedly in the past.
“He’s my go-to man in the middle, we need him to be on top of his game at the World Cup so it was really good to see that performance,” said Du Plessis.
Ngidi picked up the Sri Lankan openers - Niroshan Dickwella and Upul Tharanga - in an energetic first spell, before Anrich Nortje on debut got the speed gun working overtime, hitting speeds well over 140km/* regularly. Not that it had much effect, given the slow surface, but Du Plessis was delighted to have another weapon in his arsenal.
“He was bowling at 145 and the ball nearly didn’t carry to Quinny - it’s probably the slowest wicket he’s bowled on. But he had good control, I was really excited with his pace, how he pushes batsmen back. That’s the ‘X-factor’ we are looking for. Hopefully we get a pitch with more pace and bounce in the next game, to see what he can really do.”
Du Plessis continued his outstanding form with the bat, notching up an 11th ODI century, finishing off the match unbeaten on 112 (114b, 15x4, 1x6). “I want to make sure that I’m the guy, that if and when I get in, that I go big - 30s and 40s don’t win you games.”
He shared a stand of 136 for the second wicket with De Kock, who’s been in supreme form all summer. “What we did really well today was get the balance right of taking risks and putting their bowlers under pressure. We didn’t just try and take ones, we were positive and took it to them, which is the way we have to play.
If you’re just hanging in there, you’re going nowhere, so it was really pleasing to see how positively we responded on a slow track.”
* Andile Phehlukwayo missed the match with a bruised left hand sustained in training on Saturday. He will be considered for the second ODI in Centurion on Wednesday.