Stuart Broad and James Anderson conspired to ensure that there would be no Faf du Plessis heroics with South Africa looking to drive home the advantage in the first innings of the Newlands Test.
The pair have both enjoyed a renaissance period in their careers despite critics suggesting their age was catching up with them. Broad, in particular, has improved by taking wickets at a better average and strike rate since the start of last year than in the rest of his career. While Anderson has taken more than half of his 586 Test wickets on the ‘wrong side’ of 30.
He has now revealed how a plan was struck to disturb the mindset of Du Plessis.
‘Our greatest strength in the last eight years, I reckon, is how we communicate. When we open the bowling together we see our job as adapting quicker to get the opening batsmen out. On Saturday, we were thinking about how to get in Faf du Plessis’s bubble: Let’s lead this attack, throw the ball at Faf, get in Faf’s bubble, all the little things that seem like a bit of nonsense but actually create something.
‘I was throwing made-up stats at Faf. It’s probably absolute rubbish but I had heard that at Cape Town, 80% of the wickets were from batsmen nicking balls to wicketkeeper, slips or gully. So I was making sure Faf could hear me and going: “80% nicks here, boys, 80% nicks. Fourth stump, straight-bat nicks. We know it’s 80%.”
‘So, I was basically telling him to leave the ball. “You’ve got to leave it, Faf, ‘cos if you play at it, you’ll nick it.” And then he played a straight-bat nick, didn’t he, when Jimmy got him out. So that’s why Jimmy came running over to celebrate with me and we were like: “Yeah, yay!”
‘I know it sounds a bit childish but your aim is to just try to have some sort of mental jump on your opposition. Maybe Faf started to think he shouldn’t drive. Any sort of doubt I can get. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Someone like Steve Smith, it doesn’t look like you can affect him. He just seems to be so in his bubble.
‘Jacques Kallis used to walk to square leg and walk back and you couldn’t seem to change his routine. KP, you’d never get confrontational with, because you knew it would improve him as a player. Matt Prior, you wouldn’t sledge him if you were bowling to him, because it would improve him as a player. I love that about cricket. It’s weird. It’s unique. There are so many ways you can affect a game.’