Faf du Plessis vividly showcased his enduring value to the Proteas cause in helping the hosts tighten their grip on the first Test against Sri Lanka in Centurion on Monday.
The 36-year-old lit up the first session of the third day’s play by completing his 10th Test century, a classy effort that led South Africa to 435/5 at lunch, a lead of 39.
He had an excellent ally in Temba Bavuma, who helped him add 179 for the fifth wicket, before falling for 71.
The diminutive stroke-maker’s dismissal though elicited some controversy as he fell victim to his own nobility.
Bavuma did admittedly slash at wide delivery from Dasun Shanaka (2/80), but replays showed that he actually didn’t hit the delivery.
However, he and Du Plessis’ application has to be lauded.
On a SuperSport Park pitch that’s starting to behave erratically, the pair had to both endure some awkward moments where some balls took off on lengths that weren’t particularly short.
Yet amidst that, they still made sure of putting away a still regular stream of bad deliveries dished up by the Sri Lankan attack.
Du Plessis, who’ll resume on 112, remained strong on the leg side though his off-side play became progressively more fluent, while Bavuma was silky as ever square of the wicket.
The latter’s dismissal could’ve provided a much-needed boost for the injury-ravaged visitors, but Wiaan Mulder made sure that the momentum wouldn’t be stifled, adopting an attacking approach in hitting three boundaries in his brisk, unbeaten 18.
South Africa will hope the pair can continue the quest for a substantial lead as batting last on this surface is starting to look an increasingly treacherous prospect.