Cape Town - Faf du Plessis wrote another chapter in his Adelaide Oval romance when he struck an invaluable unbeaten century - the sixth of his career - on the opening day of the Proteas' historic first experience of day/night Test cricket on Thursday.
This century followed his innings of 78 and 110 not out - the latter an epic match-saving effort – on his Test match debut at the Adelaide Oval in the 2012/13 season.
When he declared the Proteas had posted what looked like a competitive 259/9 after winning the toss and deciding to bat first to which Australia replied with 14 without loss in the remaining 12 overs. The latter had to revamp their opening partnership as David Warner had spent time off the field with an apparent shoulder injury during the latter part of the South African innings.
He will now have to bat at No 3 when Australia resume their innings on the second afternoon.
Du Plessis’ unbeaten 118 came off only 164 balls with 17 fours and along the way he achieved the milestones of his highest score against Australia and 2 000 runs in his Test match career.
The only partnership of note up front for the Proteas was the 51 that he and Stephen Cook put on for the fourth wicket but at the back end he found good lower order support from Kyle Abbott (54 for the eighth wicket) and Tabraiz Shamsi (an unbroken 39 for the 10th wicket).
Shamsi replaced Keshav Maharaj in the only change to the Proteas side that clinched the series in Hobart. He became the Proteas 93rd Test cap.
Du Plessis played an innings of tremendous skill, composure and character - the latter probably being the most important ingredient after his integrity had been challenged continuously during the preceding week. His preparation for the match must have been anything but perfect.
As for skill he played some tremendous cover and straight drives and also scored runs effectively off the back foot square of the wicket.
As is the case with JP Duminy he has brought a much more attacking insight to his game and he is reaping the deserved rewards.
He also had a good day as leader encouraging his tail-end batsmen to go for their strokes and take the runs available rather than shepherding them away from the strike. It was important to have a good bowl at the Australians before the close of play even if it did not bring a wicket and it was a strategy that had been advocated on TV by two of Australia’s outstanding modern captains, Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor.
The Proteas scored 89/3 in the afternoon session, 76/4 in the twilight session and 94/2 in the evening session before the declaration which gives credence to Quinton de Kock’s pre-match comment that the easiest time to face the pink ball is under the lights.
The bounce, swing and movement when South Africa took the new ball did not produce any problems for the batsmen although they took 38 collective balls to score their first runs off the bat.
The ball swung and moved appreciably during the two earlier sessions and the Proteas will hope for more of the same when they resume their attack.
For whatever reason 8 of the 9 wickets fell from the Cathedral End and the first seven dismissals were all the result of catches either by wicketkeeper Matthew Wade or by the slip cordon.
Conditions were far from ideal for batting in the first 60 overs which gave even more substance to Du Plessis’ great innings.
Scores in brief:
SA 259/9 declared (Du Plessis 118*, Cook 40, Hazlewood 4/68)
Australia trail by 245 runs with 10 first-innings wickets remaining.