Faf du Plessis has admitted that his side were lucky to emerge with a series victory in New Zealand, after the final Test in Hamilton was rained out.
New Zealand were on top after day four and had South Africa at 80-5 in their second innings, with a deficit of 95 runs. The Black Caps were in prime position to win the final Test, with South Africa’s goal of reaching No 2 in the rankings under threat.
The Proteas did hold a glimmer of hope, with Faf du Plessis (15) and Quinton de Kock (15) still at the crease, but it would’ve required an accelerated batting performance from the pair to escape a draw from being the most probable outcome for SA.
Rain washed out day five, meaning that the Proteas’ second Test victory helped them clinch the series 1-0.
Du Plessis was honest about the outcome of the match at Seddon Park.
‘Everyone would say that New Zealand can count themselves very unlucky,’ said Du Plessis.
‘Last night after the day’s play, there was still a strong belief in the team because we’ve been in situations like this before and overcame them. So from a team perspective, we were still driven in making sure that we do whatever it takes to get through.
‘But, if you look realistically at the odds, New Zealand can count themselves very unlucky.
‘They dominated us in this Test match and deserved to have a crack at us today. It’s a fair assessment to say we got saved by the rain.’
He continued by giving a fair reflection of the series as a whole.
‘This series has been series of what-ifs,’ he said. ‘You feel like even after this match, there could have been more, because the teams are playing some competitive cricket and for most of the series it’s been 50-50.’
If there is one main issue which South Africa needs to sort out it’s their top six. The Proteas put themselves in sticky situations through this series and it was mainly due to collapses by the top order.
Du Plessis addressed the issue openly.
‘I’m very disappointed with our top six. There’s been a lack of hundreds, lack of good starts and we have been playing with our backs against the wall as a batting unit. It’s an area where we need to step up and be a lot better. We need more consistency from our top seven.’
However, the Proteas must be commended for turning around their season, which saw them seventh on the ICC Test rankings nine months ago. They fought back well, beating New Zealand at home, followed by two whitewashes against Australia and Sri Lanka to place them third in the rankings.
The draw in Hamilton bumped the Proteas up to second, which was said to be the goal, according to their captain.
‘We didn’t play great cricket, but we still won,’ Du Plessis said. ‘We had a roadmap of how we can get there and visualised getting there, and we are here today. Although I am disappointed with this Test, it doesn’t take away the unbelievable achievements we’ve had this season.’
Ultimately it was a tough series, starring Kane Williamson, and Du Plessis was not ashamed of congratulating the Kiwis skipper for a good series.
‘New Zealand played some good cricket, especially Kane,’ Du Plessis said. ‘I would like to congratulate him on a good series. Two hundreds out of three games is extraordinary.’
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