A tale of two captains

South African captain Faf du Plessis tosses the coin as Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed calls and Match Referee David Boon looks on during day 1 of the 2nd Castle Lager Test match between South Africa and Pakistan at PPC Newlands on January 03, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images)

South African captain Faf du Plessis tosses the coin as Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed calls and Match Referee David Boon looks on during day 1 of the 2nd Castle Lager Test match between South Africa and Pakistan at PPC Newlands on January 03, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images)

Comments from the Pakistani and Proteas captains were very illustrative of their differing fortunes.

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said on Sunday that his bowlers were chiefly to blame for their defeat in the second Test against South Africa at Newlands, which also gave the Proteas the series win.

That was despite Pakistan’s batsmen only mustering 177 all out on the first day, to which South Africa replied with 431. The tourists batted better in the second innings, making 294, but the Proteas easily knocked off the 41 runs required for victory in just 48 minutes on the fourth morning.

“It is a big difference between our bowling and theirs. Our bowling was not up to the mark and we averaged 130km/h compared to them at 145km/h. The lack of pace means you’re not going to get wickets over here. I don’t know what was going on; they were just better than us, but it was very disappointing; as a team we did not play well.

“The way we bowled in Centurion was much better and we didn’t put enough runs on the board here either; we did not capitalise. But credit to them, they know how to play in South Africa. They did not give us any bad balls compared to us, who gave them so many bad balls. It was definitely a lack of discipline with both bat and ball,” Sarfraz said.

South African captain Faf du Plessis said he did not care much about complaints about the pitch, especially by Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur.

“It was a tough pitch, but it goes both ways; we scored more than 400 runs, which showed that making runs on it was still possible. You just had to make that mental switch, focus on mental toughness; it’s about fronting up to whatever challenge you’re faced with, whatever happens, whatever comes our way. Flat wickets aren’t happening any more. The pace of the game has quickened up and you have to move with it.

“We never ask for anything ridiculous in terms of the pitch – just pace and bounce. We’re open and honest about that. It was a mental battle because 10% of the balls would move, but the other 90% you could play. We expected the pitch to get worse, but it actually got better and the short ball began bouncing like a tennis ball because it was not as quick,” Du Plessis said.

While his opposite number was berating his bowlers, Du Plessis was full of praise for his attack, especially their efforts in bowling Pakistan out for 294 on the third day.

“The bowlers were good as a unit and we said that, if we could get one wicket, then it was a tough pitch to start on so we could get more; we just had to stick with it. So we proved that if we can get one wicket then we can get more. The performance was world class. The only thing was that Pakistan went at more than four runs an over, which is not good enough. So we didn’t bowl to our best.

“But it’s nice that the bowlers get one or two days extra to put their knees up and I expect we’ll be fresh and ready to go for the next Test. Against India we had a chance to really put a nail in their coffin at the Wanderers, but we made a couple of changes, tried a few combinations and it felt like we took our foot off the pedal a bit. So now we want to keep Pakistan under pressure,” Du Plessis said.

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