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Faf du Plessis Needs to Step Up After Underwhelming 2018 in Tests

When AB de Villiers retired from International cricket, much of South Africa’s hopes hinged on his schoolmate, close friend and national team skipper, Faf du Plessis. A tireless rock with a tenacious approach that drove the Aussies crazy in his debut Test, du Plessis has been one of the pillars around which South African batting revolved.

Cricketnext Staff |January 3, 2019, 12:48 PM IST
Faf du Plessis Needs to Step Up After Underwhelming 2018 in Tests

When AB de Villiers retired from International cricket, much of South Africa’s hopes hinged on his schoolmate, close friend and national team skipper, Faf du Plessis. A tireless rock with a tenacious approach that drove the Aussies crazy in his debut Test, du Plessis has been one of the pillars around which South African batting revolved.

In 2016 and 2017, the skipper clocked averages of over 50 in Test cricket with several telling contributions in wins. He was prepared to spend time at the crease, and made bigger scores at a profound frequency. Cometh 2018, that zing in his batting had gone missing. He made a total of 463 runs, including a ton against Australia at Johannesburg, but that was among the very few bright spots this year in whites.

He faced the least number of balls/innings on an average in any year in International cricket and recorded fifty-plus scores at an alarmingly reduced frequency of one every 7th innings on an average, making it his second worst year since debut.

Faf (2)

Du Plessis’ slide downhill couldn’t have come at a worse time. De Villiers retired and Hashim Amla has failed to find form. Du Plessis didn’t step up, despite South Africa recording wins against India and Australia at home.

They lost 2-0 to Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka but the year ended on a positive note with another win against Pakistan in the Boxing Day Test. Most of that was spurred on by the bowlers. Their batsmen had a very average year with even Aiden Markram, who was the highest run-scorer in Tests for South Africa this year, showing an evident weakness in technique in the last two series.

Faf (3)

Du Plessis’ average of 24.36 was among the worst for South African batsmen this year. Only one of them – de Villiers – ended with a 50-plus average and this only made it all the more important that du Plessis found his feet.

His scores this year make for unpleasant viewing. What began in pompous fashion with a 62 against India at Cape Town came crashing down by year-end with a duck in each innings in the final Test of the year against Pakistan.

Faf (1)

Since the Australia series, du Plessis has made double figures just twice in six innings. Even during the Australia series, his scores, aside from a 120 in the final Test when Australia were mentally down after the ball-tampering saga, read 15, 4, 9, 2*, 5, 20 and 0. The skipper had a forgettable Test year in 2018 and in the year of the World Cup, he might want to step up across formats and show that South Africa can surge ahead even without his close mate in the ranks.

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