Proteas captain Faf du Plessis said he was proud of his team’s final-innings fightback in the first Test against Australia at Kingsmead but acknowledged being in that position had been down to their own shortcomings.
The Proteas conceded a massive first-innings deficit of 189 runs after allowing Australia to regroup from 177 for five and post 351, after which the hosts were shot out for just 162.
Bowling Australia out for 227 in their second innings meant that South Africa had an unlikely target of 417 and they were staring humiliation in the face as they crashed to 49 for four before lunch on the fourth day.
But Aiden Markram’s brilliant 143, coupled with brave support from Theunis de Bruyn and a superb return to form by Quinton de Kock, allowed the Proteas to take the game into the fifth morning, albeit for just 22 balls of action before they were dismissed for 298. De Kock was the last man out for 83.
“I’m very proud of the character we showed on Sunday, normally you get bullied all day when you’re in that sort of position, and our young guys showed great character in particular. But allowing them to get 351 was too much on that pitch, there was enough turn and reverse-swing on offer.
“But there was a real difference in skill in terms of the reverse-swing and the two tails, which will be a major part of this series. We need to find a way to eliminate the Australian tail quickly and if not at least find a way to stop them scoring, keep them quiet.
“It’s difficult for our tail against Starc, but he has not just done it against South Africa. Our tail is going to have to scrap and get as many runs as they can, but we know that batsmen one-to-seven have the major responsibility to ensure that the runs down there are not so vital,” Du Plessis said after the 118-run defeat.
But with the David Warner/De Kock contretemps dominating the news on Monday, South Africa have certainly shown they are up for a fight in the series and the build-up to the second Test starting in Port Elizabeth on Friday will simmer with intensity.
“The fourth day was a big day for us for the rest of the series. We showed that we’re not going go away as a team, we’re going to keep fighting. We’re looking forward to the next game,” Du Plessis said.