A tale of two captains

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TELFORD VICE, Hobart

YOU needn’t have kept track of what happened in the middle at Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Tuesday to tell the winners from the losers.

All you had to do in the aftermath of the second test between Australia and South Africa to know which team did what was look at the captains’ faces.

Faf du Plessis’ eyes shone with pride, satisfaction and amazement that his men could play well enough to take eight wickets in less than a session to clinch not only the match but the series.

Steve Smith skulked pale and grim, his eyes hidden in the shadow cast mercifully by the peak of his cap. His jaw was set square and sorry, and he would be forgiven a few tears in private.

“They’ve got a full strength team; there’s no injuries,” Du Plessis said. “So to come here and do what we’ve done is right up there, certainly in my career.

“We know how hard it is. We watched on TV for so many years how hard it was for South Africa to come here and do well.

“The younger guys watching at home can know it’s possible to come here and, to an extent, dominate an Australian team.

“It’s extremely special for us because we know this is something we will remember forever as a team. That’s exactly what we came here to do. We want to create memories as a team together.

“We’ve done it a few times now, but it’s not done yet.” 

Indeed. This is the third time since 2008-09 that South Africa have come to Australia, seen, and conquered.

Now they face new frontiers in the shape of the third match of the series in Adelaide next Thursday.

Not only will that game be South Africa’s first pink-ball test, it will also give them the chance to become the only team to beat Australia 3-0 at home.

That, mind, after becoming the first team to hammer the Aussies 5-0 in a one-day series in South Africa last month.

“That’s the mission for us now, we want to do that very badly,” Du Plessis said.

“It was the same with the ODIs. We won’t rest on our laurels and being happy with 2-1 or even 2-0.

“We’ve got Australia in a position where they are under pressure and we don’t want to let that go. It’s hard enough to get them in this position so we’ll do everything we can to keep them there.”

Those will be dread words for Smith, who showed himself to be the only Australian batsman willing to fight for his wicket on Tuesday.

“I need players that are willing to get in the contest and get in the battle and have some pride playing for Australia,” he said.

“At the moment it is not good enough and I am quite sick of saying it to be honest.

“It’s happened five tests in a row now – we’ve lost five in a row and for an Australian cricket team that is humiliating and I am embarrassed to be sitting up here in this position.”

He didn’t need to say so. We could see that.

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