Faf stars in Proteas' Great Escape
Faf du Plessis scored a century on debut to help South Africa draw the second test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval on Monday in tense fashion.
Full Scorecard: Australia v South Africa
Du Plessis and De Villiers resumed the final day after grinding their way through day four and while De Villiers was dismissed early, it was Du Plessis who dug in deep and scored an unbeaten 110 off 376 balls to take the Proteas to safety as the visitors drew the test by finishing on 248 for eight on day five.
South Africa were set a target of 430 by Australia, but they got their chase off to a shaky start, losing four quick wickets on the penultimate day with Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla and Jacques Rudolph all falling cheaply as the Proteas stuttered in their final innings.
Du Plessis was handed two lifelines in the morning session on day five, having two decisions which were given out by the on-field umpire over turned, both off the bowing of Michael Clarke.
First he was given out leg-before, but upon review the impact was outside the line and the decision was overruled immediately.
The second was also given out leg before, but upon review it showed that the ball had hit the bat and Du Plessis was handed another reprieve.
The Australian bowlers looked somewhat deflated throughout the morning session and were perhaps surprised that the pitch didn’t break up as expected.
Australia took the second new ball as soon as it was available and with just a few minutes to go before lunch, Nathan Lyon was brought back into the attack and there was yet another review, this time from Australia.
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The hosts were convinced they had Du Plessis leg before, but the umpire was not interested and upon review it was shown that the ball would have gone over the stumps.
De Villiers departed shortly after lunch for a grinding 33 off 220 - the longest innings ever in test cricket without a boundary - but Du Plessis and Jacques Kallis weren't going to go anywhere any time soon.
The pair combined for a tense, but crucial, 99-run partnership, with Du Plessis notching up a hundred on debut in the process, making him the fourth batsman to score a hundred on debut for South Africa, and the first to have a half-century and century to his name.
He also became only the 15th player in the history of test cricket to score a 50 and a ton on debut.
Kallis fell to Lyon shortly after tea with the batsman poking forward and being deceived a tad by the bounce, a thin edge flew to Ed Cowan at short leg who took a simple and straight forward catch.
Dale Steyn marched out to the middle and survived for 28 balls before he hit a full toss straight to Rob Quiney at midwicket, who reacted sharply to take a good catch.
Rory Kleinveldt avoided a pair and after surviving for 17 balls, he was bowled by a swinging yorker from Siddle, just ten minutes before the close of play as tension mounted on what had turned out to be a nailbiting session.
Morne Morkel was the new man out and managed to survive for 13 balls, and the final over from Siddle to help play his part in South Africa saving the test match.
CREDIT TO AB AND KALLIS
Du Plessis's efforts earned him a man of the match award and the debutant was understandably delighted, he also credited the tail and the efforts of De Villiers and Kallis for helping him along with his knock.
"It was a fantastic effort from the boys and there were so many emotions going through me through that innings. I had goosebumps all through the nineties and I can't actually put into words how I feel," Du Plessis said.
"The plan was to take the game session by session and if we could get to the final session and still had wickets in hand, we believed we would be okay. It took a tremendous effort from the tail to come in at the end and show such character facing a ball which is reversing, it's not easy out there.
"AB and Kallis have probably been South Africa's best batsmen for a while now and they both helped me tremendously, especially Kallis. He kept me calm and if it weren't for them, that knock wouldn't have been possible."
Skipper Smith was delighted with his charges and said he felt proud to be a Protea as the team fought back in what looked like a dead and buried game on day four.
"That was something special, it was a long day in the change room and it was terrific to watch how the guys played. The pride, skill and discipline was great, we didn't play well in this test, but we scrapped and we came out with a draw," said Smith.
The match looked over when the fourth wicket went down on day four and while Smith admitted that there was a sense that it might all be over, the team still harboured some hope.
"When we lost the fourth wicket, there is always that feeling that the writing is on the wall, but every team always has a little bit of hope and we definitely had that when we came out today, we never gave up."
The skipper also credited Du Plessis and Australia's efforts in what will go down as one of the most epic fightbacks in recent history.
"Faf was immense mentally and emotionally, I was proud to be a part of it today. It's also important for us to give credit to guys like Siddle, Michael Hussey and Clarke, they put us on the back foot and they made us scrap."
The teams now head to Perth for the third and final test with the series still 0-0 and the number one ranking still belonging to South Africa.
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AUSTRALIA: Ed Cowan, David Warner, Rob Quiney, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke (capt), Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade (wk), Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Lyon.
SOUTH AFRICA: Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wk), Jacques Rudolph, Faf du Plessis, Rory Kleinveldt, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir.