TELFORD VICE, Adelaide
WHO needs poetry? Who needs opera? Who needs theatre? Who needs art when you have the masterpiece Faf du Plessis delivered in Adelaide on Thursday?
On the grandest of stages, a modernist cathedral set against a lava lamp sunset, and in front of a crowd of 32 255 come to enjoy a day/night of pink-ball test cricket, Du Plessis the tampering villain became Du Plessis the towering hero.
And there was not a damned thing any of the many who booed him when he first skipped across the boundary could do about it.
When Du Plessis reached 50, their boorish voices were fewer and further between. When he dashed deep into the outfield to celebrate his century only a smattering of spitefulness was heard amid the waves of appreciation for a performance for the ages; a thing fetched from lore and destined to shine there forever.
Du Plessis arrived at the crease with his team in trouble on 44/3, only to watch them dwindle further into the dwang on 117/5.
He proceeded to bat through the remaining seven partnerships of the innings, which included half-century stands with Stephen Cook – whose 40 was his highest score in nine innings of all flavours – and, yes folks, Kyle Abbott, who showed that he has learnt how to bat as well as hit.
Then came a rollicking stand of 39 for the unbroken last wicket with Tabraiz Shamsi in which no-one knew where the debutant would hit the ball next. Including the debutant himself.
And then, immediately after drilling Mitchell Starc down the ground for four, Du Plessis, who has spent most of the week under the cosh of being accused, tried and convicted of ball-tampering during the second test in Hobart, who had rolled with the biggest punches the press and the public could throw at him, declared.
He was 118 not out and his team were 259/9.
For Australia, left to face 12 overs before stumps were drawn and the floodlights doused, Usman Khawaja and Matt Renshaw batted like men marooned in a minefield to reach 14 without loss.
Even that was a victory for Du Plessis. He knew David warner had been off the field receiving treatment for a shoulder problem for too long to open the innings. That’s why he declared when he did.
Good thing you are reading this in the fine light of a South African morning, for Thursday’s black magic needed several hours of mulling over for it to ease into the realm of the possible; nevermind the probable.
After everything Du Plessis and his team have gone through, how could this happen?
Actually, after everything they have been through, how could something like this not happen?
They had earned the gumption to not only withstand sniping bowling by Starc and Hazlewood, who took six wickets between them, but end up with dozens more runs than they should have scored considering how their innings teetered earlier.
And that despite facing the pink ball for the first time at this level and batting through the twilight that all and sundry have warned would be treacherous.
But, after the week they have had, nothing could scare Du Plessis and his team on Thursday – and it showed.