Faf du Plessis nearly does it for South Africa

Faf du PlessisSouth Africa's Faf du Plessis jumps in the air as he celebrates his century during the final day of their cricket test match against India in Johannesburg, December 22, 2013. REUTERS

The shock following Hashim Amla's grim dismissal hadn't 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 didn't disappoint. "I said to myself to `think of the team's 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.

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