CAPE TOWN – Every morning Faf du Plessis wakes up, someone is moaning about the state of the pitches in South Africa.
Even after his team completed their seventh successive home series triumph with a nine-wicket thumping of Pakistan on Sunday morning, South Africa’s captain found himself defending the surfaces his team play on in Mzansi.
Such has been the focus on the 22 yards of parched earth that many have almost forgotten that Du Plessis struck an epic century on the second day.
He did that while displaying all the old-school values of good Test cricket by absorbing a couple of body blows, and showing great determination and courage to reach three figures for the first time in his adopted home town.
Not only did Du Plessis’ sublime knock, along with Temba Bavuma’s half-century, set up a Proteas first-innings total that ultimately paved the way for a match-winning lead, but it also showed that the pitches in South Africa were not landmines waiting to explode.
“We never ask for ridiculous pitches. We just ask for pace and bounce,” Du Plessis retorted.
“You have to adapt your game, and Temba (Bavuma) was a great example. In two Test matches in a row now on tough pitches he has scored runs, and it shows you that it is possible if you apply yourself mentally and you have a technique.
“Cricket is not the same as it used to be four to five years ago, when 400 or 500 totals were scored all the time.
“You look right around the world, possibly for the first time in Australia, it happened because the ball wasn’t swinging, it was going straight – because the pitch was flat and they were scoring runs.
“But in South Africa, the ball does move. (We have) seamer-friendly pitches. The pace of the game has moved a lot quicker. Batsmen are not just going at 2.2 runs an over.
“Test matches are going a lot quicker and as a player, you have to move with it.”
Watch what the series victory means to the team 😍. The Proteas have claimed their 7th consecutive series win at home with a brilliant 9 wicket win against Pakistan in the 2nd Castle Lager Test at PPC Newlands. #Itsmorethancricket #ProteaFire #SAvPAK pic.twitter.com/yNIErQVDsz— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 6, 2019
Touring South Africa has never been an easy proposition for sub-continent teams, with Pakistan continuing the legacy of no team from Asia ever having won a Test series in the republic.
But unlike India, who refused to blame the surfaces for their 2-1 defeat last year, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was particularly critical this past week.
Arthur was, of course, at the helm of the Proteas from 2006-2010, and would certainly have been involved with similar discussions with the curators around the country prior to any Test series, just like Du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson are now.
Du Plessis believes the current team management are possibly just more forthright with their ambitions in trying to get the Proteas back to the World No 1 spot on the ICC Test rankings.
“I think maybe we just speak about it more openly than you possibly would have heard about in the past,” he said.
“Our question to any groundsman is always if the pitch has pace and bounce... that’s always what we ask for. We don’t ask for anything more than that.
“Everyone expected this wicket to get worse because of the cracks, but it actually got better.
“Not too long ago we were number seven in the world, and the first thing we said was that home series we need to take care of and play really well there.
“Home series definitely had to be a fortress, and Newlands was the front-runner where that is concerned. We take a lot of pride in that.”
* The New Year Test was head curator Evan Flint’s last Test match before South Africa’s double-award winning groundsman heads off for a new challenge at the Wanderers from February.@ZaahierAdams