Comrades: AB de Villiers, left, and Faf du Plessis discuss tactics during the fourth ODI between SA and Sri Lanka. The one-day captain often confers with his Test and T20 counterpart. Picture: CARL FOURIE/GALLO IMAGES
Comrades: AB de Villiers, left, and Faf du Plessis discuss tactics during the fourth ODI between SA and Sri Lanka. The one-day captain often confers with his Test and T20 counterpart. Picture: CARL FOURIE/GALLO IMAGES

Faf the magic dragon lives by the crease and frolics in the
run-filled mist in a land called Victory.

Apologies to Peter‚ Paul and Mary‚ the 1960s New York folk group whose song Puff (The Magic Dragon) was a chart topper back in the day.

And apologies to everyone who has never heard of them.

But they are likely to have heard of Faf du Plessis‚ whose 185 in the fourth one-day international (ODI) against Sri Lanka at Newlands on Tuesday was the second-highest score for SA in ODIs and the joint 11th-highest in all 3,833 games to have been played in the format.

It was also Du Plessis’s second century in a series in which he has also made a half-century amid a total of 369 runs scored at faster than a run a ball. 

How good is that?

Twice as good‚ at least‚ as anyone else playing in the rubber. Upul Tharanga is second to Du Plessis among the run scorers with a series aggregate of 182.

Du Plessis is a long way from the hardest-hitting‚ most innovative or flashiest batsman SA sends to the crease. But he is among the most dependable. And‚ in this series‚ exponentially the most successful.

Has the fact that Du Plessis‚ SA’s Test and T20 captain‚ has been able to hand over the ODI reins to AB de Villiers got something to do with the fact that his average is in three figures for only the second time in his 50 series — regardless of format – for SA in which he has played more than one match?

Quite the opposite.

"I think being a captain makes me play better‚" Du Plessis said. "That’s possibly been a reason [for my good form]. The confidence and the momentum of that definitely helps. It makes you raise your own bar of performance‚ you want to be a better player.

"My challenge to myself was to be a good player and now it’s to become a great player.

"So it’s just about lifting the bar and making a mind shift."

Even though De Villiers is in charge, it is not uncommon to see him consulting Du Plessis — and others — on the field.

That is hardly surprising considering SA have won 10 of the 17 series in which Du Plessis has captained them in more than one match.

"I play my best cricket while I am active and thinking on the field‚" Du Plessis said.

"So it doesn’t make a difference – when I am in a position to say: ‘Now I would like some time off to have a bit of freedom and not captain.’

"That’s not something I would look at right now. I enjoy the extra responsibility.

"Having said that‚ since AB has come back‚ we’ve worked really well together.

"I can feel that on the field the two of us talk from the same mouth almost."

Be careful‚ opponents: there be dragons.

Cape Cobras seamer Dane Paterson has been drafted in
as cover for Dwaine Pretorius in the Proteas T20 and ODI squad for February’s tour of New Zealand.

The Highveld Lions all-rounder‚ who was man of the match in Saturday’s Pink Day ODI at the Wanderers‚ is set to miss the sole T20 international against New Zealand at Auckland’s Eden Park on February 17 and the first ODI at Hamilton’s Seddon Park two days later because his wife is expecting a child. TMG Digital

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