Proteas / 21 January 2020, 12:30pm / Zaahier Adams
Faf du Plessis has enjoyed some of the best times any captain could dream of whilst in charge of the Proteas. Often they involved the arch-enemy Australia.
But of late he’s been on the other side of that scale. South Africa are one game away from losing their third successive Test series - and second at home - after hitting rock bottom at St George’s Park yesterday.
England took a little bit longer than expected, but ultimately they completed the job by thrashing the Proteas by an innings and 53 runs to take a 2-1 series lead to Johannesburg.
It is now when they need their captain more than ever before. He knows he is short of runs, and that is taking its toll in its own way, but the strain of leading a team through a transition period is taking years off his life.
It certainly seems that the walls are closing in on Du Plessis and that everything seems to be working against him and his team. The pitches produced during this series, particularly at St George’s Park, virtually nullified Vernon Philander.
To compound matters, Du Plessis won’t be able to throw the ball to Kagiso Rabada later this week at the Wanderers whenever he searches for a wicket after the strike bowler was banned for one Test.
To say Du Plessis is a frustrated would be a gross understatement.
“You need things to go in your favour as a team when you are fighting every day,” he said. “Every session is pressure. You need stuff to go for you.
“The best KG is, is when he is that pumped up. I’ve seen it in his career - when he is fired up, he bowls better. He is a fantastic bowler when he is in the fight with the batter, when he is in the batter’s face and he has got a competition and it’s you against me. Then, you see KG at his best.
“We saw that. It was a big wicket for us. Joe Root is a fantastic player and to get him out, you could see how much it meant to KG.
“That’s the problem now. We ask him to show that emotion and show he wants to lead the attack, he wants to fight and show that South African spirit and then it gets taken away from him from by celebrating.”
Du Plessis, though, has played international cricket for over a decade. He knows that the rub of the green favours the team that is playing consistently good cricket. And that’s not the Proteas right now. England have done the small things better. Their batsmen have respected the new ball and been prepared to grind out “boring” runs, unlike South Africa that have had a laissez-faire attitude at the crease.
“What makes Test cricket unique is that you have to absorb pressure, and we not doing that at the moment. Confidence is a big thing in our batting line-up. We need to get it back. There are quite a few of us who are underperforming at the moment. That’s a fact. Myself included. Twenties and 30s have never and will never win Test matches,” Du Plessis said.
“Our responsibility as the top five is to lay the foundation for players coming in to play with freedom. The England top three does a very boring job, in a way, but they do a good job. They make sure they take care of the new ball, they are very set in their game plans but it works for them.”
South Africa need to find a way that works for them. And very quickly too with the fourth Test starting on Friday.