Faf waves goodbye to Test cricket: His 5 greatest knocks

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Faf du Plessis celebrates his Test century on debut in Adelaide.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Faf du Plessis celebrates his Test century on debut in Adelaide. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Faf du Plessis on Wednesday announced his retirement from Test cricket, a move designed to assist him in focusing on the T20 format, especially with ICC World T20s looming in consecutive years.

While the 36-year-old veteran will probably be remembered more fondly for his exploits in white-ball cricket, where his stats border on world-class, he certainly had his moments in the pinnacle format of the game.

Sport24 looks back on his five greatest Test innings.

110* - v AUSTRALIA (ADELAIDE, 2012)

Thrust into making his Test debut at age 28 due to JP Duminy's injury, Du Plessis impressed all with a relatively fluent 78 in the first innings, showing fine composure after candidly admitting he almost lost his one shoe walking down the steps to come out and bat.

Not exactly a way to calm the nerves.

However, his trial in the second innings was even bigger.

With the Proteas staring an impossible target of 430 in the face, Du Plessis came in at 48/4.

He only had the lower order for company - though Jacques Kallis' appearance at No 7 due to a side strain helped - and proceeded to compile an epic, 466-minute, 376-ball stay at the crease that saw South Africa to safety. 

Emboldened by his heroics, the Proteas went on to win the final Test in Perth and won the series.

118* - v AUSTRALIA (ADELAIDE, 2016)

Vilified by the Australian media and cricket supporters in the so-called Mintgate saga - Du Plessis was caught on camera in the previous Test in Hobart shining the ball with saliva from a mint he had in his mouth and charged with ball-tampering - the South African captain proceeded to play one of the greatest "middle finger up" knocks of all time.

As the rest of his team-mates struggled to cope with the pink ball (it was SA's first day-night Test), the right-hander operated at a different level.

In an innings studded with 17 boundaries, Du Plessis was brilliant on the off-side, creaming numerous off- and square-drives and appropriately celebrating his hundred with a underarm fist pump.

134 - v INDIA (WANDERERS, 2013)

This knock was not only memorable because of the huge role it played in South Africa almost overhauling a world-record target of 458.

It was also the perfect anchoring innings to build the rest of the batting effort around, a 309-ball stay at the crease that notably allowed AB de Villiers to take the attacking lead in an almost match-clinching partnership.

Yet Du Plessis never looked bogged down as South Africa maintained a good balance between keeping the rate up while not losing wickets.

Many still wonder what could've been had he not been run out by a superb direct hit from Ajinkya Rahane...

112* - v NEW ZEALAND (CENTURION, 2016)

This entry requires a bit of context.

The Proteas had been traumatically whitewashed in India, lost a home Test series to England and were eliminated early from that year's ICC World T20.

An autumn Test series against the Black Caps seemed like a bad idea as the South Africans once again made a low total in the first Test in Durban before the match was controversially dogged by a soggy, poor outfield.

The hosts traipsed  to Centurion, where Du Plessis scored a gritty century that gave his team a solid first innings total that allowed them to clinch a victory that dragged the Proteas out of their losing groove and laid the foundation for arguably the most successful period of his captaincy tenure.

80 - v SRI LANKA (GALLE, 2014)

South Africa had never won a Test series in Sri Lanka before and had to start this one at a venue where they consistently got hammered.

Put into bat, the Proteas needed to make a good start.

Dean Elgar (103) and Du Plessis gave them exactly that, his somewhat dour 80 the perfect tonic for South Africa to make a big enough first innings total to account for any devils in the surface later on.

South Africa won that match and the series ... and Du Plessis had played an understated, vital role. 

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