Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
“The position we got to, we’d have liked to win the game and be part of the best Test match ever”
South Africa batsman Faf du Plessis has revealed that he knew right from the get go that his match-saving innings of 134 in the first Test against India in Johannesburg would be much harder than his fabulous unbeaten knock of 110 against Australia in the second Test in Adelaide in November 2012.
While he did not have to stay at the crease for seven hours and 46 minutes like he did in Adelaide, du Plessis stated that his time out in the middle at the Wanderers proved to be a nightmare due to the conditions.
“This wicket was a little bit harder,” du Plessis said. “In Adelaide, it was quite flat and there was not a lot of seam movement but I knew this was going to be a real challenge. There was consistent bounce outside off stump.”
Speaking about his magnificent 205-run partnership with long-time school friend AB de Villiers, du Plessis said: “The first challenge was to get to the new ball. Myself and AB wanted to get through that, so I was really pleased with the way we did that.
“I started to think about the win when myself and AB started getting some momentum and were scoring four runs an over quite regularly. Our plan was to bat until the last 10 overs. From there, we’d try and get anything.”
However, du Plessis’ plan of winning the match with de Villiers did not come to fruition as the wicketkeeper-batsman was clean bowled by Ishant Sharma just three overs into the last hour of the final day.
“Then I just wanted to bat the innings through,” du Plessis said.
Jean Paul (JP) Duminy failed to have an impact with the bat as he was cleaned up by Mohammed Shami for just five runs.
“When JP got out, I knew I had to stay in because if I got out, we would be in trouble,” du Plessis said.
Du Plessis noted that he was glad Vernon Philander did not succumb to the pressure of the situation South Africa were in.
“Vernon came in and made it closer,” he said. “I just wanted to stay there. Until the last five overs, I just wanted to be there. I was very defensive, very tight.”
But, du Plessis made a fatal error in the 133rd over as he decided to run a risky single and paid the price for it when Ajinkya Rahane scored a direct hit.
“Then I wanted to join the party,” he said. “In hindsight, I should have hit that ball over his head for four.”
Du Plessis also recalled how he was “too exhausted” to give pace bowler Dale Steyn any words of advice or encouragement.
“When you get out, your concentration levels just go out,” he said. “I just went back to the changeroom and lay on my back and starred at the TV.”
The 29-year-old even had to take painkillers during his innings as his bat handle kept “jarring” into his fingers.
“In between my thumb and index finger, the handle keeps jarring,” he said. “There was a lot of bounce so every time the ball hit the splice, the handle jarred into my hand. After 300 or whatever balls, it hurt.”
Despite not being able to see South Africa through to the end, du Plessis was ecstatic with his century as it was his first score above 50 in nine innings.
“I’m very satisfied that we pulled it through,” he said. “This morning a lot of people wrote us off.
“I was really happy with the way I played, constructed my innings and left the ball.”
Du Plessis was also content with how he did not let his emotions get the better of him.
“I was very good until I got a 100,” he said. “A lot of emotion comes through your body then.
“Over the last eight months, we played a lot of cricket in the subcontinent and a lot against Pakistan. They’ve got a really good attack. I was disappointed to be left out of the one-day squad but I can use this as a stepping stone to get back.
“It was also nice to go up the order. Jacques is not going to bowl 25 overs in every game where he needs a rest [before batting]. I enjoy going up the order. Hopefully I can get more opportunities.”
Du Plessis finished off by admitting that he would have liked to have seen South Africa win the match and chase down the highest score in Test history.
“The position we got to, we’d have liked to win the game and be part of the best Test match ever,” he said. “You always want to be the guy at the end that is the hero, but I couldn’t do that today.”