Captain Faf du Plessis on Monday evening singled out Anrich Nortje and Rassie van der Dussen as the two players who have come into the Proteas set-up and shone, despite South Africa slumping to a demoralising 3-1 series loss to England when they lost the fourth and final Test by 191 runs at the Wanderers.
Nortje, who did play two Tests in India in October, ended the series against England by being the leading wicket-taker on either side, with 18 scalps at an average of 27.11.
He finished four ahead of Stuart Broad and Kagiso Rabada and not only bowled with tremendous heart and unstinting pace but showed inspirational determination as a batsman, facing 293 balls in eight innings.
Van der Dussen scored half-centuries in three of the four Tests and signed off the series with a great effort of 98 on Monday at the Wanderers.
He became the first player in cricket history to score a half-century on his T20, ODI and Test debuts.
“Anrich had a really good series and was one of the finds. We always knew he had pace but he showed control too and was able to adapt to bowling different lengths on different pitches. He was able to come in and just shine, and that eases the transition period we are in if guys come in and do well straight away. We had 10 debutants in the last eight Tests which must be some sort of a record, and it shows where we are.
Proteas’ myriad debutants
- Wiaan Mulder – v Sri Lanka at Port Elizabeth, 2018/19
- Senuran Muthusamy – v India at Visakhapatnam, 2019/20
- Anrich Nortje – v India at Pune, 2019/20
- Heinrich Klaasen – v India at Ranchi, 2019/20
- George Linde – v India at Ranchi, 2019/20
- Dwaine Pretorius – v England at Centurion, 2019/20
- Rassie van der Dussen – v England at Centurion, 2019/20
- Pieter Malan – v England at Cape Town, 2019/20
- Dane Paterson – v England at Port Elizabeth, 2019/20
- Beuran Hendricks – v England at Johannesburg, 2019/20
“In terms of game-plans and solid technique, Rassie showed what is required by the batting unit, he was a good example. He’s done a lot of work with Jacques Kallis on a little technical thing, he was getting out in similar ways, he fixed it and it paid off.
“That’s exactly what this batting unit needs – some guidance. But Rassie’s composure is what is needed at this level and that’s why we back him. He needs to play for the next three or four years,” Du Plessis said after the four-day defeat in Johannesburg.
South Africa’s next Test matches are in the West Indies in July/August and Du Plessis acknowledged that the lack of runs from his bat has fuelled the discussion about his future.
But he defended the sometimes bizarre tactical decisions he has made, saying the scrutiny over them was only because of the poor results the team as a whole was producing.
“You don’t make decisions when you’re emotional or disappointed and I now have some time off and will get away from cricket and freshen up for the T20 series, for which we will be at full-strength. I know the results have not been good and my personal performance has been well below par. I know people are disappointed and they have every right. In the current situation you need the big players to stand up and all of us, barring Quinton de Kock, have averaged less than 30. It shows where the confidence is at the moment.
“The fans always look at the captain and ask why he didn’t do something, but it’s very easy when the bowlers can bowl towards a plan. When 10 and 11 start slogging, it looks like you’re getting it wrong but there’s nothing you can change. We saw the same thing in Port Elizabeth when Keshav Maharaj and Dane Paterson were slogging, you didn’t see people saying England were tactically wrong,” Du Plessis said.