Too many risks, no re­ward for Du Plessis

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

BLOOD WAS seep­ing through the plas­ter on Dean El­gar’s left hand, there was tape on one finger of his right hand and in be­tween ques­tions at his post-match presser he dropped his head, so ex­hausted was he.

He im­me­di­ately claimed that he was ready for the fourth and fi­nal Test, how­ever. Blood­ied, bruised and in need of a shave, it was nev­er­the­less the type of in­nings he’s worked his whole ca­reer to play.

“I pre­fer not get­ting hit,” he smiled, “but so be it, it’s part of the game, you have to take the blows.”

And El­gar did; to both hands, both thighs, his chest, his hip, so merciless were Eng­land that at one point a throw from the bound­ary struck him on the back. El­gar, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You’ve got to take the pos­i­tive out of it. I guess only an open­ing bats­man could see it that way.”

He en­dured a bar­rage from Ben Stokes on Sun­day evening but rel­ished be­ing part of a bat­tle.

“It’s bril­liant, that’s why you play the game. As a kid you wit­ness that on TV and you hear the crowd singing the per­son’s name etc, and you don’t get a bet­ter oc­ca­sion than yes­ter­day. You’ve have to try and put it on your side as well, get mo­ti­vated, rev­e­la­tion, scor­ing use­ful late runs ball bet­ter than any­one could have imag­ined. He wiped out SOUTH AFRICA, al­ready tak­ing a risk car­ry­ing an er­ratic bowler in Chris Mor­ris, then took a risk in start­ing with an ill Ver­non Phi­lan­der in this Test – and it back­fired badly for them.

And that’s a few too many risks for a team that’s still find­ing it­self as a Test unit.

Dean El­gar is a mighty tough in­di­vid­ual, as he showed through five and a half hours of bat­ting in the sec­ond in­nings of this Test, but he can’t carry the bat­ting by him­self and he cer­tainly can’t carry the team when the bowlers are not up the stan­dard’s usu­ally ex­pected of them.

South Africa were out-bowled here.

How­ever, their mis­for­tune must be weighed up against the risk they took in play­ing Phi­lan­der, who Faf du Plessis ac­knowl­edged that you al­most have to be a lit­tle more stub­born, tighter in your game­plan, so you can use it in your own game. It’s a great oc­ca­sion fac­ing a guy like that. He’s a big match player and he’d go­ing to come hard, it’s a great bat­tle play­ing against him.”

Faf du Plessis said El­gar’s in­nings has shown his team­mates the way and he’s ex­pect­ing them to follow suit in Manch­ester, where South Africa have to win to draw the se­ries.

Du Plessis ac­knowl­edged that the se­ries has been bizarre, given the huge mar­gins of vic­to­ries from one Test match to the next.

“It’s a mys­tery to all of us. first in­nings, get­ting Amla with a beauty and fin­ish­ing with 5/57. Three more wick­ets came in the sec­ond in­nings. He has a strong ac­tion and as the pitch map showed, he’s a dis­ci­plined bowler, he’ll do well in Aus­tralia later this year. Moeen Ali The 100th (men’s Test) at The Oval re­quired some­thing was 50 per­cent fit. De­spite his dis­com­fort, he was still able to pick up two wick­ets - “even at 50% he’s still bet­ter than most,” re­marked Du Plessis.

The trou­ble was the rest of the at­tack weren’t – Morne Morkel is bowl­ing well in this se­ries, but Kag­iso Rabada, hav­ing not played since Lord’s, only looked to have found his rhythm in Eng­land’s sec­ond in­nings. Mor­ris strug­gled to step up to that third seamer role, not pro­vid­ing suf­fi­cient con­trol, and as a re­sult he was a re­lease of pres­sure for Eng­land’s bats­men ev­ery time he bowled.

The rad­i­cal dif­fer­ence be­tween good Mor­ris – who is ex­cel­lent as those two spells at Trent Bridge showed – and bad Mor­ris - who bowled just one maiden in this Test and con­ceded 161 runs – is sim­ply too big for the kind of There hasn’t been con­sis­tently good per­for­mances from ei­ther team. We were al­most never in this Test match. It has been a bizarre se­ries in that way. Hope­fully, that trend con­tin­ues and it will come back to us in the last one.”

Du Plessis cited the im­prove­ment shown by Kag­iso Rabada in Eng­land’s sec­ond in­nings as rea­sons for op­ti­mism ahead of the Old Traf­ford fi­nale, and along with Morne Morkel, who’s bowled well in this se­ries and a hope­fully fully fit Ver­non Phi­lan­der, he re­mains pos­i­tive South Africa can put Eng­land’s bat­ting un­der pres­sure.

As far as his own team’s bat­ting’s more mem­o­rable than just an Eng­land win and Moeen pro­vided, with a hat-trick to win the match. It was the first by an Eng­land spin­ner since 1938, just the third time a hat-trick had ended a Test, the first time in Test cricket that all three vic­tims were left-handed bats­men and the first time a hat-trick was taken here in a Test match. Test game Du Plessis wants South Africa to play.

A long-term op­tion at the top of the or­der is what South Africa need most ur­gently, how­ever, if they are to start re­solv­ing their bat­ting prob­lems, too.

Du Plessis said af­ter­wards that if it was solely up to him, Heino Kuhn will start the fourth Test in Manch­ester on Fri­day, de­spite av­er­ag­ing just 13 in the se­ries so far.

Du Plessis’s ex­pla­na­tion for the bat­ting trou­bles un­der his ten­ure cen­tre around the na­ture of pitches they’ve played on and the qual­ity of the bowlers they’ve faced.

Not since El­gar and Stephen Cook put on 64 at New­lands against Sri Lanka in Jan­uary, has there been an open­ing stand of more than 50 and you have to con­cerned, that re­mains a worry with El­gar car­ry­ing a heavy bur­den. Du Plessis backed Heino Kuhn to re­tain his spot for Manch­ester.

“It is a tough place to try and make an im­pact straight away,” said Du Plessis.

“It’s like a mid­dle or­der bats­man go­ing to In­dia for the first time and you come in and the ball is spin­ning two me­tres. This is a re­ally hard job, and we shouldn’t be too hard on judg­ing him – in a re­ally tough se­ries.”

El­gar, who’s had five dif­fer­ent open­ing part­ners in the last two years, said not hav­ing an es­tab­lished mate at the top of the or­der Luck­ily Dean took that hun­dred mon­key off our shoul­ders now, so hope­fully the bat­ters can re­spond in terms of he showed us ex­actly what is needed to bat in Test match cricket. It’s not go­ing to be easy, ever. It’s about ap­ply­ing your­self, ab­sorb­ing a lot of pres­sure even at times where it’s re­ally un­com­fort­able ... and then you will get the op­por­tu­nity to go back to the Box­ing Day Test in PE for the last time the open­ers recorded a cen­tury stand.

El­gar and Quin­ton de Kock are the only two South African bats­men av­er­ag­ing above 40 this year, and in De Kock’s case most of his runs have come in the No 7 spot.

No praise is high enough for El­gar’s knock in the sec­ond in­nings of this Test. He re­ceived a warm stand­ing ova­tion as he trudged off the field – the first vic­tim of Moeen Ali’s match end­ing hat­trick – af­ter a mon­u­men­tal ef­fort.

Eng­land can no longer lose this se­ries and thus re­tain the Basil D’Oliviera tro­phy. In con­trast to South Africa, their cricket was of the high­est qual­ity – lessons clearly were learned from the bar­rage of crit­i­cism they took fol­low­ing the de­feat at Trent Bridge. made the game much harder.

“It is a tough one, it is a lit­tle bit up and down, dis­rup­tive, es­pe­cially when you’re play­ing in this coun­try where the op­po­si­tion is high class and in their own con­di­tions, they are go­ing to bring out the small weak­nesses if you have a new com­bi­na­tion.”

“From a per­sonal point of view you have to stick to your game­plan. You can’t re­ally let it af­fect your game­plan, be­cause then the big­ger pic­ture is go­ing to be af­fected. Hope­fully, in the not too dis­tant fu­ture, we will have a sub­stan­tial part­ner­ship so that we can ob­vi­ously so­lid­ify a pair for quite a long time.” score runs. He did that to­day, it’s good from the unit’s point of view that he did it to­day, so we’ll be try­ing to do ex­actly what he did in that last Test match.” Faf du Plessis, say­ing El­gar’s set an ex­am­ple the rest of the SA bats­men need to follow. There have only been two cen­turies by a Proteas bats­man in the team’s last six Tests – both scored by El­gar.

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