Faf du Plessis’ summer to date has been about proving himself as the Proteas Test captain.
It’s a challenge he’s passed with flying colours.
On Wednesday at Kingsmead in Durban though, the 32-year-old stalwart reminded cricket fans of his ability to merely be a superb senior player.
Du Plessis was the mainstay of the Proteas’ charge to 307/6 in the second ODI against Sri Lanka, laying the platform for a victory by 121 runs.
And to appreciate his brilliant 105 off 120 deliveries, one didn’t need to look much further than David Miller’s own hundred.
The combative left-hander’s unbeaten 117 off 98 balls was a show-stopper, an innings that mixed impressive maturity with his well-known flair.
But as brilliant as Miller was, he had the platform to work with that Du Plessis provided him.
On a surprisingly sluggish pitch, Du Plessis had to consolidate after South Africa slumped to 108/4.
Hashim Amla (14), Quinton de Kock (17), AB de Villiers (3) and JP Duminy (11) were all dismissed after misjudging the pace of the surface and would’ve been well served rather following Du Plessis’ example.
He waited for the ball to come onto the bat and picked his shots expertly.
It was an innings of a man at ease with his game.
Du Plessis clearly influenced Miller positively as the pair added 117 for the fifth wicket, gradually wearing down a Sri Lankan attack that couldn’t keep up their good start.
When Du Plessis mistimed a slog to deep mid-on, the Proteas were still awkwardly placed at 225/5 but Chris Morris, another man who’s matured as a hitter, ensured the hosts would post a fine score.
The Sri Lankan opening pair of Nilushan Dickwella (25) and Upul Tharanga (26) were initially on target before both were victims of brilliant catching.
Du Plessis plucked a brilliant one-handed grab off a full-blooded Dickwella drive before De Villiers emulated his teammate with a fine catch running with his back to the ball.
Wayne Parnell (2/34) was the beneficiary on both occasions.
Predictably, the brittle and inexperienced middle-order thereafter struggled.
Imran Tahir once again enjoyed himself immensely in taking 2/26, while the part-time spin of JP Duminy brought two cheap wickets as well.
The Proteas, who lead 2-0, can now clinch an early series win in Saturday’s “Pink ODI” at the Wanderers.