“Du Plessis with his high backlift has shown that he can play the ball with soft hands. It has taken good deliveries to get him out this series”
South Africa are perhaps well on their way to losing the second Test at Colombo. Sri Lanka have clearly been the better side in both Tests with bat and ball and deserve to win the series. This was South Africa’s first series post-AB de Villiers’ retirement and they have sorely missed the veteran batsman in such conditions. Nevertheless, there were other senior batsmen like Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar or Faf du Plessis, who could have shouldered the responsibilities to get their team to a respectable position. Talking about du Plessis, is perhaps the only Proteas batsman who has looked to be positive and looked to take on the spinners.
Yes, there was Quinton de Kock in the first innings at Colombo, who looked to hit almost all the balls out of the park. But then there was du Plessis, who tried to play some sensible shots, charged down the track when needed and defended most with ease. What was most striking about du Plessis’ batting was that he played the deliveries as late as possible. Especially in Galle, where the ball was turning a great deal, du Plessis executed some late cuts or square drives without breaking much sweat. Eventually, he too succumbed to some accurate bowling and in the larger scheme of things, he could not do much of damage control.
Theunis de Bruyn, relatively new to Test cricket too did the same. He watched the ball till the last minute and then played his strokes. With Akila Dananjaya bowling both leg spin and off spin, it was crucial for the batsmen to watch the ball off his hand, which de Bruyn did well and as a result, he is inching closer to his maiden half-century.
The likes of de Bruyn and Temba Bavuma need to get some big runs under their belts and look to cement their place especially after the departure of de Villiers. A fifty in this match for de Bruyn will do his confidence a world of good as they have come under testing circumstances.
Du Plessis with his high backlift has shown that he can play the ball with soft hands. It has taken good deliveries to get him out this series. However, a few batsmen have taken on the spinners by playing risky shots when it was not needed. A few pre-meditated shots have led to their downfall.
On tricky conditions like this, it is crucial to watch the ball out of the hand and also watch until the second it hits your bat. Amla, Elgar and du Plessis have enough experience in Test cricket to understand that. Many in the team look up to them and should have perhaps set a better example for the rest of them. If someone like Amla can have 4 continuous failures, we cannot expect someone like Bavuma, who has limited exposure in this part of the world to score a big century and save the day.
There were positives for South Africa especially when it came to Keshav Maharaj. His 9-wicket haul has etched his name in history. But when it comes to their batting, they have been severely exposed. At home, they thrashed Australia and before that won a series against the No. 1 side India. However, they have failed to put up a fight on this tour and will look for a quick turnaround. Limited-overs cricket is where Sri Lanka have been a tad disappointing of late. South Africa can perhaps regain some pride in those matches.
Du Plessis has two 40-plus scores in the Sri Lanka series. While that’s not great by any stretch of the imagination, he can be reasonably pleased with his performance given that his teammates are struggling to reach double figures. It’s one thing to be positive and play your shots. However, the need of the hour was to dig in and play the long innings, which South Africa, including du Plessis have failed to do in this series. Du Plessis did little wrong when it came to picking the XI or setting the field, but sadly for him, his players have let him down this time.
Coming into the series with happy memories of the historic win in 2014, South Africa will end this Test series with nothing but bitter disappointment.