Unflappable Faf du Plessis leads Proteas to commanding position
He failed to trouble the scorers in Centurion but South Africa captain Faf du Plessis led from the front to help his team into a near impregnable position at stumps on day two of the second Test on Friday.
Du Plessis’s ninth Test century helped lend substance to South Africa’s first innings as the hosts reached 382/6 at stumps. It gives them a lead of 205 after Pakistan were dismissed for 177 in their first innings on the opening day.
On a deteriorating pitch that lead should prove invaluable as the home team push for their seventh straight home series win.
In a series in which the bowlers have dominated and on a surface that requires vigilance‚ the South African batsmen were forced to grind it out.
Du Plessis (103)‚ obdurate throughout‚ rode whatever the Pakistan attack threw at him on a track that increasingly produced variable bounce.
As a result‚ he got hit a few times‚ most notably on his fingers‚ an area that has required more than a fair amount of spraying‚ strapping and patching in recent seasons.
Du Plessis bobbed and weaved‚ and mostly rode the storm. When he did put bat to ball it was in the act of smothering danger or advancing his team’s cause by judiciously punching into gaps.
He came into this match having hit 400 fours at Test level and he added 13 more in his 226-ball stay at the crease.
His 156-run stand with Temba Bavuma for the fifth wicket proved the back-breaker for Pakistan as the visitors saw the Test series drift inexorably out of their reach.
Bavuma‚ although typically resilient and playing to his strength straight down the track‚ was let off the hook a few times. On three occasions the third umpire ruled in Bavuma’s favour following reviews that only deepened the visitors’ frustration.
He rode his luck before being forced into a surprising dismount when he nicked a peach of a delivery from Shaheen Afridi. Afridi was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers with 3/112. He may be a tad expensive but he does produce the odd unplayable delivery.
The day‚ however‚ belonged to Du Plessis who carved out a typically dogged ton. His innings ground to a near halt once he had reached 80 but he pushed and prodded through that less fluent patch and reached his century when he punched his 209th delivery through the covers.
By the time he turned for the third he knew he was about to complete his ninth Test century and raised his arms triumphantly‚ perhaps also in the knowledge that his side were in an unassailable position.
By the time he fell Quinton de Kock was in the throes of rubbing salt into Pakistan’s wounds. He raced to a half-century off 59 balls including seven fours.
Pakistan will be staring down the barrel for the remainder of this Test and they will do well to take the game into a fourth day.