FAF DU PLESSIS and Morne Morkel produced inspirational performances as they played through the pain barrier to help the Standard Bank Proteas close in on a series victory on the fourth day of the final Sunfoil Test match at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Monday.
The Proteas go into the final day needing 7 wickets for victory while Australia need an implausible 524 runs for victory in the remaining 90 overs after being set a monster target of 612 runs. The only issue would appear to be whether the Proteas complete a 3-1 or 2-1 series victory.
Du Plessis took several blows to the fingers of his right hand, one of which caused him a great deal of pain but he put it behind him to score his 8th Test match century and his third against Australia. In all he made 120 runs (178 balls, 18 fours and 2 sixes) and shared the biggest partnership of the series to date of 170 with Dean Elgar (81 off 250 balls, 10 fours and a six). In the process Elgar completed his 300 runs for the series.
Du Plessis’ century was a typical power-driven knock, studded with commanding drives and vigorous pulls, plus the odd moment of unorthodoxy such as the six he hit over backward point off the front foot.
His partnership with Elgar took the game well out of Australia’s reach and it was then cemented further by Temba Bavuma and Vernon Philander who hit an unbroken 71 for the seventh wicket. Bavuma completed statistically his best Test match by scoring 130 runs over the two innings without being dismissed.
Pat Cummins rounded off an outstanding series by taking 4 wickets in the second innings to finish with his best match return of 9/149.
There had been considerable doubt as to whether Morkel would be able to bowl at all in the second innings following his apparent abdominal injury but he proved more than equal to the occasion, sending down an eight-over spell of sustained accuracy and pace to dismiss both opening batsmen at a personal cost of just 18 runs.
Keshav Maharaj chimed in with the wicket of Usman Khawaja to leave Australia up against it at 88/3 with the only realistic option to try to fight for the draw.