Shorn of superstars, the Proteas beat England by 107 runs in the first of four Test matches as a result of the team’s overall strength, writes DANIEL GALLAN at Centurion.
That is the assertion from captain Faf du Plessis, who says triumphs of this nature are more pleasing than ones procured on the back of one or two standout performances.
‘You take more from victories when everyone contributes in their own way,’ Du Plessis told reporters after his side went 1-0 up in the series at SuperSport Park.
That three players would have been deserving recipients of the player-of-the-match award is telling. In the end, Quinton de Kock’s 95 in the first innings and explosive 34 in second meant he beat out Vernon Philander with 4-16 in the first innings plus 81 runs in the Test, and Anrich Nortje who grabbed 5-103 with the ball to complement his second-innings 40 as nightwatchman for the honour.
Du Plessis singled out Nortje’s contribution with the bat, which came in a 90-run stand with debutant Rassie van der Dussen, but spent more time waxing lyrical about his bowlers.
‘They were exceptional. All of them with small contributions make the bowling unit bowl so well. Collectively I thought our bowlers were exceptional.’
It was not just with the ball that his bowlers added value. Runs from Nortje, Philander and Dwaine Pretorius ensured South Africa never lost control of the match despite top-order struggles.
‘Dwaine brings so much balance to the side and allows me to control the bowlers,’ Du Plessis said. ‘In South Africa it is important to have a guy who can bowl 10 to 15 overs and can score runs. Dwaine domestically has scored the most runs of all the all-rounders. In this game he was brilliant. The way he controlled his overs is exactly what we needed.’
Du Plessis also complimented the contribution of Keshav Maharaj. Although the off-spinner bowled only 20 overs in the match – four in the first innings, 16 in the second – his reliability and wicket-taking potential proved invaluable.
‘We just had a gut feeling [that Maharaj would nab the wicket of Stokes],’ Du Plessis said. ‘Even though he didn’t bowl as much as he would have liked, the wickets he got for us were huge.’
The captain has spoken extensively on the atmosphere change in the Proteas camp as a result of the fresh faces in the dressing room. New coach Mark Boucher, along with assistants Jacques Kallis and Charl Langeveldt, have breathed new life into a side whose morale had been shot after a tumultuous year.
‘It’s been tough,’ Du Plessis admitted.
‘We needed to get our confidence back. We knew that we needed to put in some good performance to get the engine running again.’
With this win, Du Plessis’ side will be bolstered as they head towards Cape Town full steam ahead for the New Year’s Test on 3 January.
A first Test victory in six matches is just the start this new regime needed.