Faf du Plessis gets a century, Temba Bavuma walks and Kagiso Rabada is back
CENTURION - Faf du Plessis registered the first Test hundred by a Proteas batsman in over a year, as the home team took a crucial first innings lead in the first Test against Sri Lanka here on Monday.
At lunch Du Plessis was not out on 112 with South Africa on 435/5, a lead of 39 runs. He will resume after lunch in the company of Wiaan Mulder, who is on 18, looking to build South Africa’s lead on a pitch where the bounce is becoming increasingly inconsistent.
Du Plessis’s hundred while a significant personal milestone will also motivate a dressing room many of whom would not have had the opportunity to applaud a teammate’s efforts in reaching the three figure milestone. There have been some questions about Du Plessis’ continued worth to South Africa, but he emphatically underlined that, with an intelligent innings that could prove crucial in tilting this Test South Africa’s way.
He came to the crease on Sunday afternoon, after Sri Lanka had struck back to back blows removing Rassie van der Dussen and Dean Elgar, and had to weather a storm as the tourists worked hard to press home an advantage
Resuming on Monday morning, South Africa still trailed by 79, but Du Plessis and Temba Bavuma continued to punish the many loose deliveries on offer from an inexperienced Sri Lankan attack, that is also missing Kasun Rajitha, who left the field after bowling just 2.1 overs on Sunday.
Bavuma and Du Plessis added 179 for the fifth wicket, with Bavuma registering his 14 Test half-century - coming 14 innings since his last one - as the Proteas went passed the Sri Lankan first innings total of 396. The Sri Lankans wasted the second new ball, continuing with a short ball strategy when Lutho Sipamla had shown on Sunday that the best way to get success on this surface was to pitch the ball up.
Even off a good length the ball was skipping up to throat height and both batsmen had to fend off deliveries that got big on them. On other occasions deliveries also seamed passed the outside edge, offering further encouragement for the bowlers.
Sadly for Bavuma, he couldn’t celebrate Du Plessis’ milestone on the field alongside him, after wafting at a ball from Dashun Shanaka, and then walking after Niroshan Dickwella had competed the catch. Bavuma was very quick to tuck his bat under his arm and depart the arena although subsequent TV replays suggested he may not have touched the ball
His innings of 71 included seven boundaries, but there will be a sense of what might have been, especially against a tiring attack lacking discipline. It is closing in on five years since Bavuma made his one and only hundred, and while this innings and the partnership with Du Plessis were extremely valuable in the context of this match, the fact he missed out on a personal milestone of his own will hurt.
Du Plessis, in getting to his hundred also became only the ninth South African batsmen to register 4000 Test runs. At the same time South Africa also passed 400 for the first time since Mark Boucher took over as head coach and for only the fourth time in the last 29 Test innings.
*Meanwhile Kagiso Rabada has overcome the right abductor muscle injury that prevented him from playing in the last T20 International against England and joined the Test squad on Monday. He also passed all the necessary Covid-19 protocols to enter the bio secure environment and will be available for selection for the second Test at the Wanderers, starting on January 3.