Preserving a strong away record will be a motivating factor for the Standard Bank Proteas in the fourth Test match against England starting at Old Trafford on Friday. The Proteas have only lost one away series – against in India in 2015 – since 2006, a phenomenal record they will be looking to extend.
Defeat will also end a brilliant run of four consecutive series wins this season, a clean sheet highlighted by wins against New Zealand (home and away), Australia and Sri Lanka. Although a win was the first prize, Faf du Plessis admits a drawn series will be equally valued given England’s strength in their home conditions.
“ Coming to England and drawing a series is not a negative,” Du Plessis explained to the media in Manchester on Thursday. “ England are a good team at home and to draw a series against them will be important for us. We have a proud record away from home, something I believe is not spoken about enough. Our record away from home over the last eight years is remarkable and as a team we are motivated to keep the away losses to a minimum.”
Old Trafford is a former home ground for Du Plessis, a venue where he spent two years playing for Lancashire County Cricket Club as a Kolpak player. He says his stint at the county gave him the foundation and experience that has moulded him into the international cricketer he is today.
“ Yesterday, driving into the ground, it was nice to come back here,” he said. “ I’m thankful for my time at Lancashire, I feel it has played a big role in my journey to where I am today. It was good to see the people who work here, they still remember me and I still remember them. I’m motivated to make a good play over the next five days at one of my home grounds. It’s also good to see the weather is the same way I left it, but the drainage here is good.”
Vernon Philander is struggling with a stiff lower back, and will undergo a late fitness test to determine his availability for the match. The decision on his participation will be made on Friday morning.
“Vernon will have a fitness test today, he has a tight back, but he should be ok,” Du Plessis said. “ Vernon at 100 percent fit means a lot of things. It means we can look at playing three seamers with the seven batsmen. Vernon at 90 percent doesn’t allow you to play three seamers because you don’t want to be in a position where if a seamer breaks down you only have two seamers, that would be the end of the Test match.”