Faf du Plessis is the highest placed South African in cricket.com.au’s countdown of the 15 best Test centuries scored on Australian soil since 2000.
Du Plessis takes the 2nd spot behind Michael Clarke, who tops the list for his 329 not out vs India at the SCG in January 2012.
Hashim Amla was ranked 12th on the list and AB de Villiers 10th, while JP Duminy’s 166 vs Australia at the MCG in December 2008 gave him the No 7 spot.
Du Plessis’s 110 not out vs Australia at the Adelaide Oval in November 2012 only happened after Duminy injured his Achilles tendon in a freak accident during a warm-down session following the opening day of the series.
Bowling attack: Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Michael Clarke
Percentage of team score: 110 out of 248 (44 per cent)
Next highest score: 46
Match situation at start of innings: South Africa 45-4, trailing by 384 runs
Match situation when innings completed: South Africa 248-8, match completed
Result: Match drawn
One of the major turning points of Australia’s three-game series against South Africa in late 2012 wasn’t something witnessed by a worldwide TV audience in the middle of a Test match.
Rather, it was seen by next to no-one when star Proteas batsman JP Duminy ruptured his Achilles tendon in a freak accident during a warm-down session following the opening day of the series.
Duminy’s series was over in an ironic and cruel twist; he only gained selection for his breakthrough series in Australia in 2007-08 when Ashwell Prince was injured on the eve of the first Test.
The 10-man Proteas had Brisbane’s weather to thank for allowing them to escape with a draw in the first Test, and it seemed they were going to need further assistance from above when the Australians dominated the opening four days of the second Test in Adelaide.
A second-consecutive double-century from Michael Clarke and hundreds from David Warner and Mike Hussey helped the home side to 550 in their first innings, and their lead was 429 when Clarke declared their second innings closed halfway through the middle session on the fourth day.
Australia had enough runs to ensure they would not lose. But did they have enough time and enough firepower to ensure they would win?
The answer seemed to be in the affirmative when the Proteas were 77-4 at stumps, meaning the home side had 98 overs on the final day to take the wickets of five fit batsman and that of hobbled all-rounder Jacques Kallis.
That fifth day would be one of the most absorbing seen on Australian soil in recent memory. Just 171 runs were scored and only four wickets taken, but it was hard to look away as a future star announced his arrival on the international stage.
Debutant Faf du Plessis, Duminy’s replacement, had impressed with a patient 78 in the first innings and he needed another innings of substance when he arrived at the crease with 29 overs left on the fourth evening.
He would walk off the ground more than 24 hours later with his wicket still intact, having defied the Australians for 376 deliveries through a mixture of impeccable judgement, patience and resolve.
He had company, too.
AB de Villiers played an innings that went completely against his attacking nature, his 220-ball 33 the second-slowest innings of 30 or more in Test history.
A hamstrung Kallis limped his way to 46 from 110 balls before he became Nathan Lyon’s third victim, the off-spinner finishing with remarkable figures of 3-49 from 50 overs.
Tailenders Dale Steyn, Rory Kleinveldt and Morne Morkel scored just 11 runs between them, but soaked up 56 crucial deliveries in doing so.
In total, the Proteas played out 763 dot balls across four-and-a-half sessions.
But the hero was Du Plessis, who became just the fourth South African to score a century on Test debut when he pushed Ben Hilfenhaus for a couple through the covers from his 311th delivery.
A century on debut normally rouses a wild burst of emotion and celebration, but not so with Du Plessis. With more than 20 overs still to go, he calmly acknowledged the applause and then settled in to finish the job.
His unflappable temperament was on full display as he approached the milestone. It took him 49 deliveries to move through the nineties and he sat on 98 for more than five overs.
By anyone’s standards, it was a brilliant performance. From a man on debut, it became one of the great Test match knocks.
‘The Australians didn’t stop. They kept chatting in my ear the whole day,’ Du Plessis said. ‘We would have done the same thing. They were fighting and they were getting frustrated because they weren’t getting us out.
‘I just tried to keep my game plan very simple. Make them bowl at me and take it hour by hour.’
An Australian attack minus the injured James Pattinson bowled bravely for 148 overs, but they would ultimately fall two wickets short of victory. A valiant Peter Siddle was tireless in sending down 63.5 overs for the match, but he finished the final day a broken man.
He and Ben Hilfenhaus would miss the third Test, which the Proteas to won in a canter to hold on to the world No.1 ranking.
That the Proteas went into the series decider still level was thanks to their star debutant.