Booed as he walked in, Faf du Plessis extended his impregnable run at the Adelaide Oval with another unbeaten century and declared when South Africa reached 259-9 on an opening day otherwise dominated by Australia in the day-night Test.
Du Plessis, the player of the match on his Test debut when he batted the entire last day here to salvage a series-swinging draw in 2012, was 118 not out on Thursday when he gambled on declaring the innings closed in pursuit of quick wickets.
With David Warner not allowed to open the innings for Australia because he’d been off the field getting treatment, Usman Khawaja moved up to partner 20-year-old Matt Renshaw, who was making his test debut. They navigated 12 overs under lights to reach stumps at 14 without loss, with Renshaw on 8 and Khawaja on 3.
Renshaw was one of three new caps rushed into the starting team among five changes after a heavy defeat in Hobart last week surrendered the three-Test series to South Africa.
It has been a tumultuous time since then for du Plessis, who was fined but avoided a suspension after being found guilty by the International Cricket Council of ball tampering in the series-clinching win in the second Test last week.
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Du Plessis admitted having a mint in his mouth when he licked his fingers to shine the ball in Hobart, but disputed the finding against him and said he’d been unfairly cast as a cheat for doing something that cricket teams all over the world have done for years.
He was loudly booed as he strode to the crease with the total at 44-3.
He shared an innings-restoring 51-run stand with opener Stephen Cook (40) and held the innings together as wickets fell around him.
Australia, which won the first ever day-night Test match in a low-scoring outcome against New Zealand here last year, took three wickets in the first session, four in the second, and was one wicket from bowling South Africa out before du Plessis took the tactical decision to give his bowlers a chance to get wickets before stumps.
The highest total in the first day-night Test was 224, and that match finished inside three days with a 66 by Australia’s Peter Nevill the highest score by either team.
Facing the pink ball in a Test for the first time, and with Australia’s pacemen Josh Hazlewood (4-68) and Mitch Starc (2-78) exploiting ideal conditions for swing, du Plessis was in a different class to the other batsmen.
On debut at Adelaide Oval in 2012, he scored 78 in his first innings, and batted for the entire last day and faced 378 balls for an unbeaten 110 to save the game.
After winning the toss on Thursday and chasing a series sweep, he salvaged South Africa’s innings with a 164-ball knock that contained 17 boundaries.
Cook scored 40 after a reprieve for an lbw decision on 4, and du Plessis kept accumulating runs in important stands with Quinton de Kock (24), Kyle Abbott (17) and No. 11 Tabraiz Shamsi, who was not out 18 at the declaration.