Faf du Plessis. Picture: EPA/DAVE HUNT
Faf du Plessis. Picture: EPA/DAVE HUNT

Faf du Plessis will be feeling the heat when SA face England in the third Test starting at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

The Proteas’ second-highest scorer of 2019 has had a lean time of it lately with the bat, managing only 69 runs in his four innings against the tourists.

The 35-year-old will not be worried about losing his job just yet but he will be aware of the debates raging on social media regarding his form. Some believe he should suffer the same fate as axed Temba Bavuma.

If there is one venue Du Plessis could have picked to grind out an innings of consequence and prove his detractors wrong it would be St George’s Park‚ where he averages 72.71 across six Tests.

And if SA are to take an unassailable 2-1 lead heading into the final Test in Johannesburg‚ they will need their skipper to fire this week.

Speaking at his captain’s media conference on Wednesday‚ Du Plessis said “outside noise” would always be a factor but he admitted the need for him to score runs.

“You get used to it when you’ve played international cricket for as long as I have‚” said the veteran of 250 matches for SA.

Temba has been put in a position where he needs to score runs to get back into the team and if he does that he will
Faf de Plessis, SA captain

“It comes with media for you and media against you. It’s really important for any player not to get sucked into it too much.

“The difference between players who played for a short time and a long time is how they cope with the pressures that come with it.

“I’m not getting into a battle between myself and Temba as to who plays and who doesn’t. My performance also needs to improve in terms of scoring runs.

“Temba has been put in a position where he needs to score runs to get back into the team and if he does that he will.”

SA will need to achieve something this week they could not in Cape Town:  take 20 English wickets.

Du Plessis spoke of how reverse swing could play a role if the heat levels remain the same and the ball is scuffed sufficiently with the help of an adjacent‚ bare pitch.

For that matter‚ they are caught between whether to sacrifice the all-round capabilities of Dwaine Pretorius or to bring in another quick bowler in Dane Paterson.

“[One needs to consider] the nature of the ground‚ the conditions here and the style of bowling that can work at St George’s. But if you do that you are going in with one fewer batter or spinner and there is merit in both.

“You need a spinner at St George’s and you also need a longer batting line-up. It’s not an easy decision but those are just the options on the table. It’s about looking at the conditions and seeing what do we need to take 20 wickets.”

Best of spirits

England arrived at the country’s oldest Test venue in the best of spirits and well rested after their 189-run victory at Newlands.

International Cricket Council (ICC) Player of the Year Ben Stokes will once again be key to their success. He has single-handedly won games in the past year, and SA will need to work out a way to counteract his skills.

England have a poser as to who will replace the injured James Anderson. Mark Wood and Jofra Archer are the front-runners but that selection dilemma is not as complicated as SA’s.

Possible teams:

SA: Faf du Plessis (capt)‚ Dean Elgar‚ Pieter Malan‚ Zubayr Hamza‚ Rassie van der Dussen‚ Quinton de Kock‚ Vernon Philander‚ Dwaine Pretorius or Dane Paterson‚ Keshav Maharaj‚ Kagiso Rabada‚ Anrich Nortjé.

England: Joe Root (capt)‚ Zak Crawley‚ Dom Sibley‚ Joe Denly‚ Ben Stokes‚ Ollie Pope‚ Jos Buttler‚ Sam Curran‚ Dom Bess‚ Stuart Broad‚ Jofra Archer or Mark Wood.

Umpires: Rod Tucker‚ Bruce Oxenford

TV umpire: Joel Wilson

Match referee: Andy Pycroft

Start: 10am