The shock following Hashim Amlas grim dismissal hadnt yet worn off at the Wanderers late on Saturday evening. Nevertheless,the 11,000-odd weekend crowd broke into a raucous roar expecting Jacques Kallis,but the voices stuck when Faf du Plessis walked out. But by around a few hours later next day,du Plessis,with 135 to his name,would almost have guided his team to success negotiating the largest chase in Test history.
But when he walked in,it seemed South Africa would do well to even get away with the draw. But du Plessis had done it before. He had done so on his Test debut itself just over 12 months ago in an unforgettable contest in Adelaide. Back then du Plessis had batted for seven hours and 49 minutes,having walked into a similar situation. At the Wanderers,it was going to take another Herculean effort of discipline and determination. Du Plessis didnt disappoint. I said to myself to ‘think of the teams goal,which was to be defensive, he had said after that marathon-effort Down Under.
Just like the Australians had 12 months ago,the Indians threw everything at him. There were near-misses aplenty. The outside-edge was beaten repeatedly.
But du Plessis continued to stick to his batting diet-plan of resisting all temptations outside his off-stump. Over after over,spell after spell Zaheer Khan,Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami kept found the right areas. Du Plessis remained disciplined and resolute. Just like he had at the Adelaide Oval.
By the time he reached his century,he had left 54 off the 130 deliveries that the Indian seamers had bowled at him. At the same time,his defence remained resolute. The pitch had cracked up at various sections. There were plenty of balls that reared up on him. One hit the handle. The other smashed into his gloves. Du Plessis remained undeterred. His footwork remained assertive. Though he was squared up on a couple of occasions he was never wary of coming onto the front-foot.
It was a question of survival overall. And du Plessiss first boundary didnt come till the 74th delivery he had faced,a flick shot off Mohammad Shami,who had troubled him the most. By the time he reached his half-century,du Plessis had faced 142 deliveries. After a tricky first session,he batted through the second session in the company of schoolmate AB de Villiers,with whom he had shared a lengthy stand of similar nature during his rescue-act in Adelaide. The similarities with that match-saving knock were just not ending.
Unlike last November,the hosts now were within a realistic shot of chasing down the highest total in Test history,and as his innings progressed the shots began to flow. A pull-shot off Ishant,three ferocious cut shots off Zaheer and an on-drive off Shami. The rear-guard effort was turning into a match-winning one.
As he neared his century,the noise around the Wanderers had picked up. They were all cheering for him now. Kallis had come and gone earlier in the day. It was du Plessiss moment.
The roar around the ground as he flicked Zaheer through mid-wicket for three runs to bring up his third Test ton was the brashest among the many heard around the Wanderers on what turned out to be Super Sunday for the home team. The crisis-man of South African cricket had done it again. And with the gates thrown open on Sunday,the crowd was far more appreciative than during that Adelaide knock.