It was just another day, another fabulous century and yet another successful run-chase by the Indian skipper Virat Kohli. With an innings of 112 runs off 119 deliveries, he was once again seen doing what he does best in a run chase. There is little doubt why he is referred to as the ‘chasemaster’ in limited-overs cricket.
But let’s just talk about something else here. Let’s just talk about an innings which, although couldn’t change the outcome of the match, but certainly did alter its course. South African skipper Faf du Plessis’ hard-fought knock of 120 runs off 112 balls dug the hosts out of trouble and led them to a fighting total.
Du Plessis had walked out to bat in the eighth over of the innings when Jasprit Bumrah pinned Hashim Amla in front of the stumps and the South African scoreboard read 30/1. There was the need to build a partnership, and the skipper did it with utmost responsibility, grace and charm as he started his innings with three boundaries in an over from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He stitched a partnership of 53 runs along with Quinton de Kock. However, the promising partnership was cut short when Yuzvendra Chahal trapped de Kock in the 16th over.
That was just the beginning of the slide as the hosts were 51/4 inside 12 overs. Du Plessis watched the destruction and madness from the other end. After de Kock departed, it was Aiden Markram who was dismissed trying to flick the ball to the leg side off Chahal’s bowling. JP Duminy followed next, being outfoxed by a googly from Kuldeep Yadav. David Miller also didn't stay long at the crease as he was beaten by the pace of the delivery from Kuldeep only to be caught at short cover by Kohli.
However, Du Plesis somehow managed to survive that spell even though he looked as much uncomfortable as the other batsmen against the Indian spinners. He was lucky that India didn't review an lbw appeal against him when Chahal had trapped him plumb in front of the stumps in the 13th over. Du Plessis was batting on 18 then. However, the most important part was that he survived that tricky spell without giving any other chances to the spinners thereafter. All he looked for was an able partner at the other end and Du Plessis got support from Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo.
The South African skipper was patient, measured and controlled in his approach as he took over the job of rescuing his team. Despite his bad back showing up time and again, the skill and determination that he showed to take South Africa to a defendable total was tremendous. He added 74 runs at a run-a-ball along with Morris and led South Africa past the score of 200 even before the 40th over which looked quite improbable when they had been reduced to 134/5.
On one side, he played the nudges and chips both in front and square of the wicket, and on the other side, he brought out expansive drives and cuts from time to time that fetched some much-needed boundaries. It was an absolute treat to watch the way he was pacing the innings.
When Morris departed in the 41st over after adding 37 valuable runs in that partnership of 74 runs, it was Phehlukwayo who supported the skipper at the other end. With him, Du Plesis put on 56 runs in the next 10 overs as he took the South African score past 250. He got a huge cheer from the crowd when he crossed 100 as he had defied odds, and fought some fabulous bowling from India to lead South Africa to safety.
He was particularly lethal on the pacers as he scored 82 runs off 60 deliveries. He scored just 38 runs off 52 deliveries against the spinners, but the beauty of his innings lay in the way he stuck around with all his concentration.
His innings was constructed at a strike rate of 107.14, and it looked like a knock played on another pitch as the next best strike-rate for a South African batsman who crossed the score of 20 in that innings was just 86.04. Even Virat Kohli scored at less than a run-a-ball afterwards and that sums up how difficult it was to score quickly on that pitch.
Kohli's victorious century might have overshadowed his South African counterpart's fabulous knock, but the way and conditions in which Du Plessis played the innings was a treat to watch. Kohli had Ajinkya Rahane's support at the other end. Although, Morris and Phehlukwayo supported Du Plessis a lot, he had to guide them along. It requires something special to walk out to bat at No 3 , arrest a slide and then build partnerships with tailenders to lead your team to safety.
Even though Kohli overshadowed him with his successful run chase, Du Plessis’ innings was, arguably, a bit superior considering the scenario of the game. It might have ended up in a losing cause, but it perfectly summed up his never-say-die spirit.