Was it really a coincidence? Was Faf Du Plessis ever destined to captain South Africa? It all started back then when AB De Villiers was pushed back due to an injury. Faf Du Plessis was given the charge of South African cricket team. His time as a stand in captain was successful, in all formats. When AB De Villiers returned after recovering from his injury, he did take his responsibility to lead the limited overs South African side, however, he passed his test captaincy toward Faf Du Plessis permanently.
Faf had a good record while being the test captain before getting it permanently and there’s no doubt about it that, Faf deserved to be the captain.
People might see South Africa as the same test side it was in last 4-5 years but they don’t see the changes Faf brought within few months.
South African fast bowlers have transformed into one of the best pacers in the world. They have “Punctual” line and length. The bowlers believe in their line and lenght. They can pull out the game at any moment and that’s what makes their cricket so attractive and enjoyable. Losing Dale Steyn twice due to serious injuries was expected as a big blow to the South African test side but the way Faf organized his bowlers is exceptional. He did not let himself, his team and even people watching cricket feel Dale’s absence. Faf took “Baby Steps” to turn this test side into a more decent test side. No one noticed the change, but if anyone looks closer and observes everything going on the field, it does show a big and beautiful change.
In last few months, Rabada became one of the best bowler in the world. His line and lenght, his ability to bowl a yorker. Everything is so perfect about him bowling. At a very young age, he has done a lot with a lot of more to come. Specially in the tests in Australia last year. He was flamboyant! No one could believe if it was a 21 years old boy bowling against the Australia in Australia. Ripped through the Australian side. It’s a pleasure to see Rabada, specially in tests. He brings colors to the South African side which shows what a great future he has in coming years.
However, everyone knows the controversy Faf was involved in during the second test of the tour. Yes, the one with ball tampering. It was a disastrous situation for him. The Australian media got an excuse and they got on his shoulders 24/7. He was asked about the same thing again and again. It was silly of the media to put in pressure. It would’ve been one of the worst days of his careers. But those days didn’t last long. Faf scored a decent knock under pressure. He was under the pressure of the Australian media and the crowd in the Adelaide Oval kept on abusing him. But his innings of 118 was enough to recover things up. This time he looked like a completely different person. A true leader could be seen. A true fighter. He came in to bat when his team needed him and when he needed his inner warrior. Faf ended up leading South Africa winning the test series. His knock seemed to be enough to lace the media up. It was glimpse of something new on it’s way. He has a very great character and probably is a better leader than AB De Villiers. What is AB doing with captaining the ODI side? AB might be a great player but not a good leader as Faf is.
Last week, Faf Du Plessis couldn’t be a part of the South African side at Lord’s for first test due to some personal reasons. Dean Algar was named as the stand in captain and there it was, that was the difference. No offense to Dean Algar but it wasn’t the South African side anyone would expect. The bowling was brillaint. Probably this was the test when Veron Philander earned the praise he deserved throughout his career. What a great all-rounder he is. If he was in Pakistani team in a young age, he would’ve been among the greatest bowlers Pakistan ever produced at the end of his career. But anyways, let’s be realistic. It’s amazing the see him being consistent since the start. He’s a great bowler, he’s a genuine wicket taker, he takes beautiful wickets. Sometimes he pitches in the delivery to the batsman’s leg to get an LBW or sometimes he just bowls at perfect length and line. It’s beautiful when the ball nicks the bat and lands in keeper’s gloves or at the slips. What else do you want than that in test cricket? Ues there is something, bails flying in the air. Philander is a very mature cricketer and one of the best all-rounder in test cricket currently. It’s a treat to watch him.
Let’s roll back to the first test. South Africa did bowl well. The bowled in the right directions. But again they were missing the energy Faf always brought amomg the players. And the batting also surprisingly collapsed when it shouldn’t have. It might have been because they didn’t have a captain who was watching over them. They lost the momentum and couldn’t pick it up or recover it. Things, would’ve been, different. It’s all about leadership and the way players are used to be captained.
A good news was out before the second test. The captain Faf Du Plessis was available for the second test. But on the other hand, Kagiso Rabada was suspended for the next match. For a moment everyone was in shock until South Africa did their homework in 2nd and 4th innings of the match. It was very clever of Faf to bat first on a pitch which would give the ball extra bounce. South Africa managed to set a good total for the first innings. Openers were back in the pavilion by the 28th over. It was up to Hashim Amla and De Kock to settle things up, which they did, beautifully. Hashim Amla showed his sheer class yet again! It’s like he can control the time when he’s batting at his best. Or when he plays in swingers a little bit late to make it a perfect flick shows how good he is. South Africa did start throwing their wickets after Hashim Amla and De Kock’s stable partnership. But on the other hand, superman was saving it all up for South Africa. Or if not superman then why not call him a silent guardian in that match? First he plays carefully, sensitively to earn South Africa some runs on the board. His scored a decent 54 runs. Chris Morris did a good job as well with the bat. He came in to bat when the top and the middle-order was sent back to the pavilion. His partnership with Philander changed the face of the game. It was unexpected and a pleasure to watch them score a decent partnership. South Africa were all-out for 355.
England’s first innings didn’t went well. They were all-out for 205. Garry Ballance was yet again a walking wicket for South Africa. South Africa were totally on line, like as if they knew they were supposed to be in this situation a day before. Philander was exceptional with the ball after playing a sensible first innings. Walks back to the pavilion with 2 more wickets in his bag. Maharaj also got the form he was missing in the first match. Morris bagged 3 wickets in just 9 overs. South Africa got a decent lead of 150 runs.
Dean Algar and Hashim Amla still after Kuhn’s dismissal very early in the inning. Algar unfortunately had to walk back after scoring 80.
De Kock surprisingly didn’t stay long the pitch either and was dismissed for just 1 run.
So did Amla after adding just 1 more run on the board. Faf Du Plessis came in to bat, the captain. On the other hand Philander came in. Both played a beautiful knocks. Philander’s knock was a little short since he couldn’t add more than 42. While Faf under pressure scored 63 in a very crucial moment of the match. It was all about nerves. He wanted to stay as long as he can of the strike to get a decent target. He didn’t manage to get decent total. Because 493 is not decent, it’s like a giant mountain. It was more like an “endurance” for England. They could only survive this, they could only last long but not for much long to win.
It was a brilliant result for South Africa at the end of the day 4 as England were all-out for just 133 chasing 494. Philander took three beautiful wickets. Oliver took two. Maharaj took three as well. Morris took 2 in 6 overs.
Just don’t forget the wicket of Root. That was probably the top highlight of the day. Bowled beautifully with perfect line and length, hits the off stump, which eventually went. Anyone would love to watch that wicket twice or thrice, unless you’re English. Root’s wicket it was. A crucial wicket. Root changed the game in the first innings when 4 wickets were down below hundred. Root could’ve change the phase of the game but Morris was just meant to bowl that beautiful wicket.
It was all set up for South Africa. They just picked up the momentum when it seemed impossible to turn the match im favor in them. It was team work and most importantly, Faf’s brave and belligerent leadership. The first match and 2nd match were so different. But they did one same point, that leadership does effect performance. Faf draws all the force to themselves and that is why they put in all efforts to win the match in a memorable way.
Hopefully the same goes for the 3rd match, which is going to be a historic match since it will be the 100th test match Oval will host. Both teams will be pumped up since it will decide the series. Will Root recover the damage? Or will Faf roar once again? Let’s wait for it! It might be one of those “Classics”.