In his first 19 T20I career innings Faf du Plessis hit four fifties. In his last four innings he’s hit three – including a century – and his last two have yielded 198 runs.
It’s fair to say that the man who means so much to the success of the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League is bringing the same importance to South Africa in the shortest form of the match.
Du Plessis struck an unbeaten man-of-the-match 79 to help the Proteas ease to a 52-run win over Bangladesh in Mirpur, which gave South Africa their third straight win over that opposition, although this was the first time they’ve met in a T20I since 2008. Interestingly, the 148 for 4 they totalled on Sunday was the highest team score from those three encounters.
Coming in at the start of the second over after AB de Villiers had fallen, the first ball that Du Plessis faced set the tone for his innings. He worked a ball spinning into him from outside off-stump through to midwicket and set off for a run.
And so it continued. His innings was an intelligent one on a pitch that is night-and-day different from the flat belters we see in the various Premier Leagues. This was a slow, low pitch designed to help the spinners and those seamers who bowled plenty of slower balls and off-cutters.
A trademark of Du Plessis’ knock was the manner in which he used a strong bottom (right) hand to work the ball into the gaps on the onside, while his footwork was equally important as he used his feet to get inside the line of the ball and punch it over the off-side ring, or to meet the pitch of the ball and drive down the ground.
It definitely wasn’t the prettiest T20 innings he will have played but it was a mature, sensible one. The captain of the national side led by example.
By comparison, De Villiers tried to get after the bowling too early, Quinton de Kock stood rooted in his crease and mistimed the ball to cover when on 12 from eight balls, in a manner which we have seen a number of times before. Mark this latest dismissal down to poor footwork and shot selection, again.
JP Duminy and Du Plessis took things from 31-2 to 77-3 where Duminy perished. It was a valuable partnership although Duminy never truly looked like getting in on an awkward track despite making 18 from 22 balls.
David Miller completely missed one that straightened on him, but Rilee Rossouw looked like the international player that he is when joining Du Plessis and hitting an unbeaten 31 from 21 balls. It would be good to see Rossouw coming in higher than No 6 in the order and he wouldn’t be out of place opening the innings.
The 148 that South Africa scored was always going to be too much for Bangladesh on this surface and so it proved, with the hosts crumbling to 96 all out through a variety of reckless batting and steady bowling.
When it came to their turn in the field Du Plessis rotated his bowlers well and all six used repaid him with at least a wicket. The discipline was good – only two wides were sent down – and eight catches were taken.
Duminy was particularly effective, his 2-11 from four overs producing 14 dot balls, while Aaron Phangiso produced 13 dot deliveries, suggesting that even when it came to the spin bowling department, South Africa won that battle too.
In fact, with Du Plessis winning the toss as well and making the right decision to bat first, this was a day when everything went right for the visitors.