TELFORD VICE, Adelaide
TO the sound of one hand clapping and the noise a tree makes – or does not make – when it falls unseen in a forest we can now add the sonic strangeness of the batsman who is booed when he scores a century.
Faf du Plessis was that batsmen in Adelaide on Thursday, where his undefeated 118 dug South Africa out of a hole 117/5 deep on the first day of the third test against Australia.
The visitors recovered well enough to declare on 258/9 – which would seem more than a few runs light were it not for the fact that the match is South Africa’s first in the brave new world of pink-ball, day night test cricket. Simply, no-one has a clue how many runs make a decent total.
Just as the 32 255 who turned up on Thursday didn’t know how to behave when Du Plessis reached his sixth test ton.
Nonsense. Of course they knew, and they would have done the right thing had Du Plessis not been convicted on Tuesday of ball-tampering. But their booing, which was at its loudest when Du Plessis took guard, still caught him short.
“I was expecting a bit of hostility but not to that extent,” Du Plessis said. “When I came in I was quite aware of it and as the innings went on it disappeared a bit.
“But, to be really honest, when I got to a hundred I wasn’t expecting to still get booed. So that was pretty disappointing.
“But I’m really proud. It was a big day for me to stand up as a captain and make sure I lead from the front.
“To get through all that and this week in the manner that I did makes me really proud of this performance.
“I was extremely motivated. Every ball almost I told myself that I wasn’t satisfied. I was really driven to make a big performance, and it’s great to get a hundred.”
How great? Adelaide is, after all where Du Plessis scored 78 and 110 not out on debut in November 2012 to save the second test in a series South Africa went on to win. Was Thursday’s gem better than that?
“(It was) my best, (in terms of) everything that was required to get to this point where I’m sitting now.
“Surprisingly technically I was the best (in) this whole series as well. I felt really good.
“But just in the context of everything else, the best.
“I was really motivated. I felt it was a character test and the only way I could do it was by scoring runs. It needed that.
“I’ve never been that switched on to say with every ball that it’s not enough, that I want to get a big one here.
“I was more motivated than I’ve ever been.”
As the crowd filed out of Adelaide Oval and across the bridges that span the nearby Torrens River and into the twinkling night to find a drink and quiet corner to reflect on what they had seen, there was no more booing.
There was only the burbling sound of something else: respect.