CAPE TOWN – Faf du Plessis was not just looking for the silver lining in defeat to England in the second Test at Newlands when he stated that there were plenty of “positives” the Proteas could take to Port Elizabeth for the third instalment starting on Thursday.
None was, of course, bigger than the arrival of Pieter Malan as a genuine opening batsman.
Malan displayed great powers of concentration and discipline during the second innings in Cape Town and looks to have secured the berth alongside Dean Elgar for the remainder of the series, and possibly beyond.
Equally, the continued growth of Anrich Nortje is hugely beneficial to the Proteas.
The “Uitenhage Express” will undoubtedly be looking forward to playing his maiden Test in front of the people who nurtured his fledgling career this week.
He has shown throughout the series that he has the ability to take crucial wickets – like those of England captain Joe Root and Ben Stokes at Newlands – and will be keen to put in another promising display on his home ground.
For Du Plessis and the Proteas, the greater pressure concerns the performances of the senior players, starting with the skipper himself.
Du Plessis knows that his teams need more runs from him and will be eager to rectify that situation at St George’s Park.
But the same applies to Elgar and Quinton de Kock.
Both southpaws have delivered on occasion in the series already, but there needs to be greater consistency from the senior duo.
Newcomer Rassie van der Dussen has struck consecutive half-centuries in his first two Tests, almost showing the way for his more experienced teammates.
Both Elgar and De Kock cannot be found guilty of gifting their wickets away like they did at Newlands too. The phrase “I am also human” doesn’t quite take favour as a professional sportsman, particularly for one with as much experience as Elgar.
Their dismissals, and particularly the manner of both, opened the door for England in both Newlands innings and the Proteas suffered the consequences.
There cannot be a repeat if the home team are to push ahead in Port Elizabeth.
But what about the bowlers? Are they capable of restricting an English batting line-up fully prepared to graft hard for their runs?
They will certainly need to find a way and not be reliant on the new ball doing all the work for them.
Vernon Philander will always be a threat up front but the Proteas seamers will have to find a legal way of getting the old ball to reverse the way England did at Newlands.
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