That a captain can completely change the fortunes of a team was very much evident on the second day of the Trent Bridge Test between England and South Africa. The Proteas who were looking nothing less than a fragile unit in their 211-run defeat at Lord’s were all over the hosts in on the second-day, bowling out Joe Root & Co. for 205 to take a big 130 runs lead.
Faf du Plessis had failed with the bat in the first innings, scoring only 19 but made up for it with his brilliant tactics on the second day as he guided his team to a commanding position. Speaking after the day’s play, South Africa allrounder Chris Morris hailed du Plessis’ captaincy.
“It’s quite easy for everyone to say how good Faf is,” Morris said at the post-match conference. “It’s just his character. 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. When a guy leads from the front, a lot of guys will follow.”
“Faf is solid and quite clear with his plans and speaks a very good language with the team. He’s an excellent leader,” Morris added.
Du Plessis’ exceptional captaincy was very much proved with the way he handled Morris. The fast-bowling all-rounder had gone for 20 in his first three but after a brief chat with the skipper, he conceded only 18 runs in his next 5.5 overs in addition to picking up 3 wickets.
“The message was clear from Faf: be aggressive and bowl fast. For me that cleared any doubt on what I needed to do,” Morris said.
Speaking about the fast-bowler-friendly Trent Bridge wicket, Morris said:
“On this wicket, you are quite happy with guys coming at you. There is just enough in this wicket for fast bowlers to be excited, and with overhead conditions, with the ball swinging and the way the Duke moves around, we don’t mind guys coming at us. Another day Joe [Root] is going to get 190, and another day he will get what he got today. It was a great counter punch by Joe but we don’t mind it.”
South Africa are firmly in the driver’s seat after finishing 75 for 1 on the second day, taking their overall lead to 205. And while Morris looked unsure of the target his team was planning to set, he looked confident of defending whatever target his skipper was going to set.
“800? I have got absolutely no idea,” he said. “The wicket is playing a little bit. It’s got a bit of juice in it. Whatever overhead conditions are… 200 could be enough on the right day. Obviously, we’ll try and bat as long as we can, and whatever decision Faf takes that 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.”