In­flu­en­tial skip­per gives South Africa the fo­cus so des­per­ately needed in crush­ing win

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - STU­ART HESS

DAY 4 OF 5 South Africa 335 and 343/9 decl Eng­land 205 and 133 South Africa won by 340 runs

WHEN is the ‘Faf Fac­tor’ not a fac­tor? When Faf says so. “All I try and do is make sure the things I know that make a change in the team, I drill them very hard. It’s not a Faf fac­tor. There are a few ob­vi­ous things for me that I fo­cus on and that gen­er­ally brings the best out of the team and the play­ers. I en­joy do­ing it. I think it brings the best out of me.”

There is no doubt the pres­ence of their cap­tain in this match had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the South African play­ers. They missed his clever ca­jol­ing and tac­ti­cal acu­men at Lord’s.

Here, he ad­mit­ted he took on more re­spon­si­bil­ity in the ab­sence of Rus­sell Domingo.

“The calm­ness around him and his lead­er­ship. It’s mas­sive,” said Man of the Match Ver­non Phi­lan­der. “There’s no sense of panic when the team are backs against the wall. That’s what he brings to the party. It makes it so much eas­ier. There’s a lot more re­spon­si­bil­ity on se­nior play­ers, and the guys take it so well com­ing from him, be­ing so re­laxed.”

One mo­ment per­haps sums up Du Plessis in­flu­ence. When Joe Root went on the at­tack, on Satur­day morn­ing, it put the South Africans on the back foot, par­tic­u­larly the two sup­port seam­ers, Chris Mor­ris and Duanne Olivier.

“Chris is new to Test cricket, the ball was mov­ing all over the place and he got ex­cited by how much it was swing­ing. There was a lot of think­ing go­ing on: ‘Okay, I want to bowl in­swing, outswing, I want to seam the ball. I want to keep the run-rate down, not go for bound­aries’. So, there was a lot of in­for­ma­tion go­ing on in his head,” said Du Plessis.

“When he walked off the field (for lunch) I could see there was a lot of in­for­ma­tion go­ing to him. I thought at the time it was im­por­tant for him to clear his head com­pletely.

“I could see his head was spin­ning. So, I said just bowl as fast as you can, and af­ter that hope­fully your ac­tion will come through. Vern also said we should just trust him and give him an op­por­tu­nity. He came through.

“The way Chris bowled af­ter that was ex­cep­tional. His con­trol sur­prised me. We know he is an X-fac­tor bowler, so to see now that he has some con­sis­tency creep­ing in is huge for us ... KG (Kag­iso Rabada) will be com­ing back the next Test and that makes the at­tack even stronger.”

The con­trast be­tween South Africa’s ap­proach to bat­ting and Eng­land's was stark. The tourists were happy to ab­sorb pres­sure and bat time, while Eng­land were far in­tent on play­ing ag­gres­sively. "We know Eng­land is a very good team when it comes to trans-fer­ring pres­sure and com­ing out and play­ing shots. But if they are play­ing shots then as a cap­tain I al­ways feel there is an op­por-tu­nity to take wick­ets," said Du Plessis. Root wants his bats­men to be more mind­ful of the match situa-tion and will call on them to show greater care at The Oval in nine days time. "Part of Test cricket is try­ing to find a bal­ance of both and even if it's not your strength, you build it into your nat­u­ral game," said the Eng­land cap­tain. "You have pe­ri­ods where you can ab­sorb a bit of pres­sure and fmd the right mo­ment to ap­ply it when chances come along. I think we through­out this game have not done that very well at all. We are ca­pa­ble of do­ing it and have done it pre­vi­ously but this wasn't a very good ex­am­ple of it."


HAPPY DAYS: Man of the Match Ver­non Phi­lan­der cel­e­brates the wicket of Eng­land’s Gary Bal­lance with his team­mates yes­ter­day. The Proteas com­pletely dom­i­nated the sec­ond Test at Trent Bridge, beat­ing the host by 340 runs – their sec­ond high­est vic­tory over En­land in Test cricket.

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