TELFORD VICE at Trent Bridge
SOUTH Africans who argue that Faf du Plessis is the difference between their team’s performance in the first and second tests against England won’t get much disagreement from Chris Morris.
Du Plessis missed the first test at Lord’s to be with his wife Imari for the birth of their first child — and England won by 211 runs with more than a day to spare.
Going into the third day of the second test at Trent Bridge, South Africa are 75/1 in their second innings: a lead of 205 and with it a commanding position.
Du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, made just 19 in the visitors’ first innings of 335. But his value soared beyond statistics.
“The message was clear from Faf: be aggressive and bowl fast,” Morris said. “For me that cleared any doubt about what I needed to do.
“Faf keeps it very simple. He speaks a good language, especially with his bowlers. I think it shows.”
Morris took 3/38, Keshav Maharaj claimed 3/21, and Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel earned two wickets each.
Whatever Du Plessis told his bowlers, it worked. According to Morris, the captain doesn’t have to say much.
“It’s just his character,” Morris said. “He lives for playing for the Proteas and is what a Protea should be.
“He lives for the team and he leads by example. He puts his body on the line and he doesn’t mind batting for three days to save a test.
“A lot of guys will follow a guy who leads from the front. He’s solid and quite clear with his plans and speaks a very good language with the team.
“He’s an excellent leader.”
Asked how big a lead he thought would put the match out of England’s reach Morris quipped, “Eight hundred.”
But seriously: “I have got absolutely no idea. The wicket is playing [up] a little bit — it’s got a bit of juice in it.
“Two hundred could be enough on the right day. Obviously we’ll try and bat as long as we can, and whatever decision Faf takes we think will be possible to defend.
“That number, I don’t know. It’s my third test; I just do the job and let the captain make the decision.”
South Africans will be more than happy to leave him to do just that.