Risk-taker Faf sees gambles pay off
The Proteas and captain Faf du Plessis took a number of risks in the first Test against India that, somehow, resulted in a victory for the hosts.
Despite losing Dale Steyn to injury on day two and being skittled for 130 in the opening session of day four, South Africa emerged with a 72-run victory against an Indian outfit that is trying to be the first of its kind to win a Test series on these shores.
Team selection was the first big gamble for Du Plessis, and after much head-scratching the decision was taken to back four specialist seam bowlers and a spinner, meaning that they went into the match with just six specialist batsmen on a wicket where making runs was always going to be difficult.
Then, there was the toss.
Having loaded his side with one of the most devastating looking seam attacks possible and having requested a green surface, Du Plessis opted to bat first.
It looked like the decision had backfired when South Africa found themselves 12/3 inside the first hour, but there was a recovery through Du Plessis (62) and AB de Villiers (65).
Du Plessis also looked to have lost the selection gamble when Steyn injured his heel in the first innings and was ruled out of the rest of the Test and then the series.
But, speaking after the match, the skipper acknowledged that making out-of-the-box decisions was a part of this Proteas side’s DNA.
“I’d like to think that we’re a team that is prepared to take risks to win games of cricket,” he said, adding that the decision at the toss was taken because he expected the wicket to get quicker throughout the Test.
“We expected that first hour to be tough, but we knew that if we could get through it, our assessment of the pitch was that it would speed up.
“You saw that today (Monday) it was very hard to bat. We just thought, bowling at the Indians, it would be harder for them if there was pace and bounce.
“It did surprise me on the first morning a little bit with the pace it had.
That’s not something I’ve seen at Newlands on day one.
That made it a little bit trickier.”
Du Plessis added that he was pleased with what groundsman Evan Flint had provided.
“We asked for a pitch that had pace and bounce and a little bit of seam movement and I think that was a great contest between bat and ball,” he said.
“I think India would be the first to say that it wasn’t a ridiculously sporting wicket. Once you got in, there were runs to score.” – Sport24