CRICKET

South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis answers the critics with century against Australia

Captain puts ball tampering controversy behind him to defy home side’s bowlers on opening day of day-night third cricket test

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 11:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 11:12pm

Skipper Faf du Plessis put his ball tampering controversy behind him to defy Australia’s bowlers and produce his most satisfying century to put South Africa in early control of the day-night third cricket test in Adelaide.

Du Plessis was booed by the crowd as he walked out to bat, following a ball-tampering incident for which he was found guilty and fined, but cleared to play in the match.

But he single-handedly lifted the Proteas before declaring at 259 for nine, leaving him unbeaten on 118 off 164 balls after the tourists had been struggling at 95 for four against Steve Smith’s revamped team.

The Australians, with David Warner unable to open the innings because of the time he spent off the field having treatment when the declaration was made, negotiated 12 overs to be 14 without loss at the close of day one.

English-born debutant opener Matt Renshaw played watchfully for eight with Usman Khawaja on three.

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It was yet another crucial knock by du Plessis at the Adelaide ground where four years ago his defiant 376-ball unbeaten knock of 110 denied Australia victory to earn the Proteas a backs-to-the-wall draw.

Du Plessis scampered through for two off Josh Hazlewood to bring up his sixth test century prompting a smattering of boos amid the applause of the 32,255 crowd.

“I was extremely motivated today. I was really driven to make a big performance and score a hundred,” du Plessis said.

“To be really honest when I got to 100 I wasn’t expecting to still get booed, so that was pretty disappointing.”

It was a tribute to his focus and concentration as du Plessis played a chanceless innings, making him stand out in contrast to the problems experienced by his teammates.

“My best [test hundred]. Surprisingly, technically, I was the best this whole series. I felt really good, but in the context of everything else, [it was] the best,” du Plessis said.

Hazlewood was the best of the Australian bowlers with four for 68.

Only Proteas opener Steve Cook provided any material support to his captain with 40 after profiting from an early reprieve. Cook had a major let-off on four, when he was struck on the back pad by Mitchell Starc and given out leg before wicket in the day’s third over. But he was called back to the crease when replays found that Starc had overstepped.

Dashing wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, who has scores of 84, 64 and 104 in the series, had a failure by comparison, managing just 24 off 33 balls.

Australia wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, recalled to the national side for dumped gloveman Peter Nevill, had five dismissals, four catches and a stumping.

Australia are fighting off the threat of their sixth straight test defeat, after losing 3-0 in Sri Lanka in July and August. They are also on the brink of their first-ever home test series whitewash.