Faf du Plessis. Picture: REUTERS
Faf du Plessis. Picture: REUTERS

Captain Faf du Plessis pointed to his team’s lack of experience after SA slumped to their third consecutive series defeat.

They lost the four-match series 3-1 to England after going down by 191 runs in the fourth Test.

They have won just one of their past nine Test matches, and Du Plessis said his team is in transition.

“We’ve had nine debutants in the last eight Tests, which just shows where we are. It is experience we need and it will take time, and I know everyone is disappointed but every team goes through this. 

“Unfortunately, we are at the stage where it is happening right now and I have no doubt that in a year or two we’ll look back at this time and see that this is where it started again for us.”

Du Plessis had praise for right-arm quick Anrich Nortjé, who enhanced his Test credentials with wholehearted performances in the four Tests.

“Nortjé had a really good series and he is one of the finds for us. We always knew he had pace but the fact he showed control and adapted with different lengths on different pitches is what we need. We need guys to come into Test cricket and just shine. That’s what used to happen and it eased the transition period a lot quicker.”

Big holes

He acknowledged that big holes have been left in the SA bowling unit. “There is a gap where our next tier of bowlers need to be to get to the same quality” as Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Morné Morkel and Dale Steyn.

Not that the SA batting is beyond reproach. Zubayr Hamza, who came into the Test set-up in 2019, has averaged just 18 and was dropped for the fourth Test at the Wanderers.

Opener Pieter Malan’s only meaningful contribution was a gutsy second innings performance in the defeat at Newlands.

Though he has been on the scene for much longer, Temba Bavuma is yet to master the demands of Test cricket. His transition remains a work in progress.

Du Plessis’s batting has also been underwhelming. He tried to guts it out in SA’s second innings on Monday, but a Ben Stokes delivery that kept low proved his undoing. Du Plessis averaged just 18 in his eight knocks in the series.

Batting fragility

The batting fragility has been underlined at a time when Jacques Kallis presides as batting consultant.

Quinton de Kock has been the most consistent batsman over the past year. He scored a half century in each of the four Tests against England.

Rassie van der Dussen scored three half centuries in the series and looks to be a player who warrants further investment in the Test squad. His fighting 98 in the second innings at the Wanderers will stand him in good stead.

“In terms of game plans and solid technique, Rassie showed what is required by the batting unit. He was a good example,” said Du Plessis.

“He’s done a lot of work with Jacques Kallis on a little technical thing. He was getting out in similar ways. He fixed it and it paid off. That’s exactly what this batting unit needs — some guidance. But Rassie’s composure is what is needed at this level and that’s why we back him. He needs to play for the next three or four years,” said Du Plessis.

Unanswered questions

There are many unanswered questions about the SA team’s batting and bowling but equally Du Plessis’s captaincy has come under the spotlight. When his team has been under pressure, Du Plessis has not always found ways of relieving it.

He defended the way he organised his troops when they were under the whip at the tail end of the England first innings at the Wanderers.

“The fans always look at the captain and ask why he didn’t do something, but it’s very easy when the bowlers can bowl towards a plan. When 10 and 11 start slogging, it looks like you’re getting it wrong but there’s nothing you can change.

“We saw the same thing in Port Elizabeth when Keshav Maharaj and Dane Paterson were slogging. You didn’t see people saying England were tactically wrong,” Du Plessis said.