Sri Lanka in South Africa 2016-17
There are ways of saying things and then there is the Faf du Plessis way of saying things. It’s considered rather than clichéd and direct without being dismissive, an especially important quality in a series like this.
South Africa have dominated to the extent that Dale Steyn’s “quietly confident,” pre-series prediction that a 3-0 whitewash could be on the cards now seems a certainty. Apart from the first day of the first Test, Sri Lanka have failed to put up a concerted challenge to South Africa in any department and the sting of this series has long left the bee.
Despite that, du Plessis did not disrespect the opposition and offered a measured explanation for their lack of fight. “We don’t see them as weak, we just see them as not being as good in our own conditions as we are,” he said.
At the Wanderers, that will only be highlighted more. Even though the groundsman Bethuel Buthelezi, has said, “there won’t be as much in the wicket as there was for Stuart Broad last year,” he has promised bounce and carry and Sri Lanka’s batsmen will need to find a way to cope.
Du Plessis’ advice to Sri Lanka is to be patient, because that is the only way to prosper on seamer-friendly surfaces. “In the batting department, they just haven’t had guys anchoring the crease and applying themselves for long enough. We also find the conditions challenging but we’ve just been more patient in waiting for the bowler to make a mistake,” he said.
Sri Lanka’s pace pack, though, could have more to look forward to. Du Plessis remains wary of an attack that have barred their teeth on occasion and that he thinks are not far away from biting. “They’ve got the seam bowlers in these conditions to challenge us, but they just haven’t done it consistently. If they start doing that then they can do exactly what we’ve done with them,” he said.
South Africa’s aim is a whitewash, which they were not able to achieve in Australia as Australia showed up well to win the floodlit Test in Adelaide by seven wickets.
“You don’t get opportunities like this very often so for me that becomes the focus – to try and make sure that we dominate a team we are on top of at the moment,” du Plessis said. “We had an opportunity in Australia, we didn’t take it – the pink ball is something the Australian team are quite successful with – but it’s another opportunity for us to try and go 3-0.”
Apart from the unknown of a first day-night Test, South Africa’s quest for 3-0 Down Under was derailed by the distraction surrounding du Plessis’ ball-tampering hearing and ultimate conviction. Then, du Plessis was disappointed that took away from the team’s achievements.
A similar thing has happened now, with Kolpak signings making the headlines and South Africa’s series win relegated to inside pages. Du Plessis has admitted he does not enjoy seeing performances brushed aside for bigger issues and would like to try and bring the actual cricket to the forefront again.
“In this series, once again, we’ve played amazing cricket, we’re 2-0 up, dominating a team and there’s other stuff that influences and takes the shine off the performances and that is draining. In a perfect world, you don’t want that,” he said.
“But it is what it is. We respect Kyle’s decisions. It’s now time for us to focus on this next Test match and look forward to how we can build a new bowling unit and see who are going to be the guys who will lead our attack in the next five years.”
Wayne Parnell has been confirmed as Abbott’s replacement and du Plessis is looking forward to seeing his progression first-hand but he is also excited about the prospect of Knights’ quick Duanne Olivier, who may have to wait to make his debut but who is definitely in the long-term plans.
“I’m excited to see how much Wayne’s game has improved. He played one Test for us last time and did really well, and I think he’s a better player than he was then,” du Plessis said.
“Today was the first time I faced Duanne and there is just something there. I really like what I see. I also like a guy coming to the nets, picking up an old ball and starting to bowl with it. Generally you get guys wanting a new ball – obviously you want to impress – but he took an old ball straight away and was just getting stuck into his areas. It’s nice that he is 24 as well, there’s a future there. I am excited about the talent.” (ESPNCricinfo)
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent