After initial hesitation about playing in a day-night Test, South Africa are now anxious to begin preparations for their first fixture with the pink ball that will take place in Adelaide at the end of November. Although the match is the last in the three-Test tour, it is foremost on South Africa’s mind because their first practice match in Australia which starts on Saturday, will be played under lights and stand-in captain Faf du Plessis is excited about taking on the unknown.
“I haven’t faced or thrown the pink ball around so it’s all pretty new to me. It will be nice to see how it plays,” du Plessis said. “I know some of the guys have pink balls in their kit, especially the bowlers. We’ve asked around a little bit and read the stuff other teams have been saying about the pink ball. I’ve got no expectations of it. I’m going in without any experience of it at all.”
With a ball that is expected to swing and conditions that should favour seamers, South Africa will likely go into the match without their most experienced batsman and will also need to prepare for that. AB de Villiers was ruled out of the tour after undergoing elbow surgery and even though he is holding out slim hope of being able to recover in time to play that game, du Plessis played down suggestions that de Villiers will rejoin them for the match.
“I don’t think so. He’s just had an operation. We’re not expecting it,” du Plessis said. “If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, we’ve got some guys who are capable of putting in good performances.
“He wants to play. It’s pink-ball Test cricket, and most of us in the team are not young pups anymore. AB’s a very competitive guy and he wants to put himself out there against the best in the world. So I’m assuming he’ll be in South Africa trying to get ready. But after a big operation like that and from the doctors’ reports that I’ve read it doesn’t seem likely that he will be fit.”
Instead, du Plessis will lead South Africa in the two matches before the day-night Test and probably also in Adelaide, where he can call on some happy memories as inspiration. On South Africa’s 2012 tour to Australia, du Plessis debuted at the Adelaide Oval and scored a stubborn century to save the game and keep the door open for an eventual 1-0 series win after a victory in the final Test at Perth where du Plessis top-scored in South Africa’s first innings with an unbeaten 78. He has since played 29 more Tests after that debut series and scored four more hundreds but still the first hundred remains the most special to him.
“I walked into the hotel and I had a massive smile on my face because I had such great memories, remembering that night after we saved the Test match, fantastic memories. That was the highlight of my career to date,” he said. “There was obviously the emotion of what went through that match but not just that. I remember drawing this match and moving on to the last one, where things completely changed for us as a team. Australia were dominant for the first two Tests and then moving into that last we finally had an opportunity to be on top.”
South Africa consider themselves in a confident position again because they have just come off a 5-0 victory over Australia in ODIs at home. Even though it’s a different format in a different place, their self-belief is soaring.
“We had an exceptional series. A lot’s been said about the Australian team but I felt we played consistently good cricket, and we take a lot of confidence from that,” du Plessis said. “We by no means think we’ll rock up here in Australia and it’ll be easy. It never is. Australia in Australia is as hard as the Indian team in India. They’re an extremely competitive team and we’ll have to play good cricket to compete with them but the performances we had in South Africa does bring us here a little bit more confident.”
South Africa will play two two-day warm-up matches ahead of the first Test in Perth with the first of those beginning on October 22 in Adelaide. They will have another practice game between the second and third Tests, under lights, in Melbourne. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)