“Du Plessis on the field is a live wire, he has been equally effective with the bat too, but certainly needs to convert starts into daddy hundreds”
South Africa romped home with another victory after beating Sri Lanka in the second ODI at Dambulla. They now have a healthy lead of 2-0 in the five-match series and look favourites to seal it with just one more victory under their belt. South Africa have been a force to be reckoned in this series and have put up a solid fight on both the occasions after a thrashing in the Test series. It demands a lot of character from any side to make a comeback like this. They were outplayed against the red ball, but are now giving Sri Lanka a taste of their medicine against the White ball.
South Africa have put up a collective show in both the games so far. After their bowlers restricted the Sri Lankan side to modest totals, South African batsmen have done well to garner the required runs without much of a hassle. In the second encounter, Quinton de Kock starred with the bat and was well supported by other batsmen, but South Africa does have some loopholes. Skipper Faf du Plessis has led the side well in this series and in the context of the game, he has garnered much-needed runs. But on a whole, Du Plessis has fizzled out after emphatic starts.
It would be cruel to blame Du Plessis for not converting the good starts into substantial scores, as the conditions have been taxing. But he is a star player and known for scoring the tough runs. Throughout the series, Du Plessis has not struggled but failed after good starts. There is a huge difference between a batsman struggling to get runs and failure of conversion. In Du Plessis’ case, conversion has been a problem, which is atrocious at this level.
One just cannot afford to step a foot wrong at this level. It has been difficult for batsmen to get going in Sri Lanka, conditions have been bowling-friendly. Du Plessis, on the other hand, has managed to get good starts, but didn’t convert it into a daddy hundred. In the Test series, his scorecard reads: 49, 1, 48, 7. He did cross the 40-run mark in both the Tests, but no daddy hundred. South Africa needed their batsmen to score big and Du Plessis’ failure to do so was a huge drawback. He is one of their best batsmen in this attack and has been a vital cog across formats.
Coming to the ODI series, Du Plessis has scored 47 and 49 in two innings respectively. He fell short of a half-century in the second game, which has been the story for him in this tour so far. As long as South Africa don’t end up on the losing side, these factors won’t matter a lot. But one just can’t live on the edge, Sri Lanka can bounce back any time, and if they do so, these factors will make a difference. Sri Lankan batsmen have not clicked collectively in the series yet and with the onus of making a comeback being on them, one can expect them to do so in the next game.
Du Plessis has received support from other batsmen in both the games. In the first encounter, JP Duminy played a good hand while De Kock was the star attraction in the second. But being the skipper of the side, and the best batsman in shorter formats, it is Du Plessis’ responsibility to carry the side over the line. These runs are an indication that he has adjusted to the conditions well and scoring odd 40s in every encounter couldn’t be a flash in the pan.
In the second game, Sri Lanka posted a competitive total of 244 on the board. South Africa got off to a solid start and did well to put pressure on Sri Lankan bowlers from the outset. Du Plessis walked in when his side was placed at 109 for 2. There was no rush at all and the elegant batsman was quick to realise it. He read the situation and played a brisk knock of 49 off 41 deliveries. With the help of two sixes and three boundaries, Du Plessis looked unstoppable but Akila Dananjaya got the better of him just when he was on the brink of a fifty. He has no fifty on this tour yet and this was a golden chance to break the jinx, but it wasn’t to be.
With the World Cup just a few months away, South Africa does have a lot of questions to be answered. The absence of AB de Villiers has only left a huge hole in the South African line-up to fill. They need to pull up on their batting. Du Plessis on the field is a live wire, he has been equally effective with the bat too, but certainly needs to convert starts into daddy hundreds. With three more games to go, the momentum is with South Africa and should take it as an opportunity to break the shackles and get a big score under his belt.