MANCHESTER: South Africa captain Faf du Plessis is determined to make a “big play” at an Old Trafford ground he knows well when his side go in search of a series-levelling win in the fourth Test against England.
The Proteas head into the series finale, which starts on Friday, 2-1 down with one to play after a 239-run loss at The Oval.
This upcoming Test has added meaning for du Plessis as it was during his time with Old Trafford-based county side Lancashire nearly a decade ago that saw the now 33-year-old batsman rekindle his desire for international cricket.
“I’m very very thankful for my time at Lancashire, I really enjoyed it, it played a big role in my journey to where I am today,” du Plessis told reporters at Old Trafford on Thursday.
“It’s really good to be back. I’m really motivated to make a big play in the next five days,” insisted du Plessis, who was also an overseas professional with Lancashire League club Ramsbottom.
With rain falling from typically leaden Manchester skies, du Plessis joked: “It’s good to see the weather is exactly the same as I left it.”
As was the case at The Oval, conditions for the fourth Test are set to be overcast.
It means runs will be at a premium, with South Africa knowing a repeat of their first-innings 175 at The Oval will all but scupper their hopes of squaring the series.
“When it is like that, there is more in it for the bowlers,” du Plessis said. “The ball does swing here and move around and we expect that, we have to deal with that.”
– Philander concerns –
South Africa were hampered severely when Vernon Philander was unable to bowl his full quota of overs at The Oval after being struck down by a mystery stomach virus.
The accurate seamer has overcome the bug but is now struggling with a back problem.
“Vernon will go through a fitness test today (Thursday),” said du Plessis. “He has a tight back. He should be OK.
“Vernon at 100 percent fit means we can look at playing three seamers and play seven batters.
“Vernon at 90 percent doesn’t mean you can play three seamers because you don’t want to be in a position where you have a seamer break down and then you only have two, because that is basically the Test match over right there,” he added.
Du Plessis, who missed South Africa’s 211-run defeat in the first Test at Lord’s following the birth of his first child, has yet to hit top form this series with a highest score of 63 in the second Test at Trent Bridge — a match the Proteas won by a huge 340-run margin.
But having been out for just one and nought at The Oval, he said: “I’m extremely hungry to make a play for the team in what is a big Test match.”
This has been a campaign of hugely fluctuating fortunes and du Plessis would regard a drawn series as a decent result for his side.
“England are a very good team at home, and to draw a series against them at home would be a hugely important thing for us,” he said.
South Africa have won 13 of their past 19 Test series away from home, drawing five and losing just one — in India in 2015/16.
Du Plessis said it was a “remarkable” run in an era where so many sides struggle to win Tests on the road, adding: “We’ve got a proud record away from home, something that I believe is not spoken enough about.”—AFP