Faf Du Plessis and standing firm
Faf Du Plessis batted for over a day to earn the South African cricket team a draw. On Sunday, the fourth day of the Test, and with South Africa at 4/45 chasing 430 to win, it seemed inevitable Australia would win.
Du Plessis stood firm. He played the straight bat, the forward defensive most often and occasionally, very occasionally, broke out to score runs.
He was stoic. He faced an attack weakened by injury to one of its strike weapons, James Pattinson. Siddle showed he was a world class bowler although one of his wickets was a full toss that should have gone to the boundary instead of to mid-on for a catch.
Nathan Lyon showed he might become a test turner, but his ability and a pitch that was surprisingly unresponsive to spin on the final two days combined to prevent him from becoming the match winner.
Hilfenhaus is past his best and the other bowlers were part timers who produced the occasional problem for the batters but didn’t threaten to win the game for Australia.
Du Plessis was given out Leg Before Wicket twice but the celebrations of the Australians were premature because on referral it was clear he wasn’t out.
Matthew Wade, who does not look to be a test wicketkeeper yet, dropped Du Plessis when the century maker was on 94.
The South African batsman stayed and plugged way, taking the sledging and balls hurled at him with equanimity and skill.
Try as they might, and with all the will in the world, the Australians could not break him.
In earning South Africa a draw Du Plessis won a great victory for a team that should have by rights been smashed and should now be trailing one nil with one game to go in the best of 3 series. He turned the fait accompli of an Australian victory into the possibility of a South African win in the long term.
Du Plessis received support from the magnificent Jacques Kallis, hamstrung as he was by his, well, hamstring. He stood firm for a long time despite his infirmity and played a patient game as well. Others like AB De Villiers also batted for some time with Du Plessis contributing to the victory of non-defeat.
Du Plessis’s match saving and heroic innings means that South Africa can, if they win the final game, win the series and retain number one world cricket ranking. Even if they draw the last game they retain number one spot.
Despite all the hype and hyperbole about Australia’s performance from the cheer squads of the media and the experts in the grandstands, the possibility that South Africa could win or at least draw the series and retain the number one world ranking shows that perseverance and persistence, coupled with skill and a steady, unflappable approach, can triumph.