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I was nervous, says du Plessis

12 January 2018

It was not exactly a gamble.

That wasn't just the fact that there was never a boring period in the first Test, with 40 wickets falling in the space of eight and a half sessions.

If there's one thing successive generations of South African teams have been criticised for, it's taking the safety-first approach and not going all guns blazing.

Philander led the three-man pace attack well in Dale Steyn's absence. "We back ourselves in challenging conditions just to try and be a little bit smart when we bat", he said. That's not something I've seen at Newlands on day one. "That made it a little bit trickier". You realise that possessing a varied pace-bowling lineup is making India and South Africa indulge in an aggressive you-miss-I-hit duel where they know one good partnership might make the difference. Although there were periods in the first innings when the tourists were able to hold the South African pace attack at bay, the batsmen often slowed to standstill.

"I mean‚ we don't want to injure him more". Yes, Dale hasn't played a lot of cricket. So I'm not surprised.

"It is really important to put the opposition under pressure in a three-match series".

"And it wasn't one-sided - both teams were in trouble at different stages".

Du Plessis spoke in lengths about South Africa's plan on Day four. Without de Villiers, they could well have been staring at 150.

The only actors relegated to the wings were spinners‚ who between them sent down only 109 of the 1 385 deliveries bowled in the match.

"The chat in the changeroom was obviously for Dale not to bat‚" Du Plessis said.

And that on the fourth day of a match that‚ effectively‚ lasted only three days what with Sunday's play washed out. Both sides came hard at each other, both had chances to seize the game, both fought back when cornered, and for 90% of the game, either could have won it.

Du Plessis was all praise for the Philander-led bowling attack.

"There was this flow the whole time: India's on top then South Africa's on top, then they are taking the game to us and we are taking it back to them". The Boxing Day Test may be the problem child of the cricket calendar as it fails to draw in crowds in either Durban or Port Elizabeth, but the New Year's Test is the pinnacle. White-ball specialist Bumrah bolts into India's Test XI Jasprit and his grandfather had been known to share a tumultuous relationship, borne out of a very long and troubled past where the cricketer's mother - Daljit - had gone out of her way to keep the boy away from it all. And that's why we absolutely loved this Test match.

"Even if we had lost this game‚ we would have been very disappointed but would have said the way this game was played was remarkable". "As an advert for Test cricket, that's as good as it gets".

The right-arm pacer also dismissed AB de Villiers (35) and Quinton de Kock (8) as his other two victims on day four of the Test. It was fantastic to be part of.

Kohli described it as a "great way" to begin the series.

"The pitch was outstanding‚" Kohli said. "I really liked the kind of wicket this was", said the Indian captain.

"I think India would be the first to say that it wasn't a ridiculously sporting wicket". So I think that message needs to go pretty strongly and you need to do that as a batting unit, collectively.

The Proteas and captain Faf du Plessis took a number of risks in the first Test against India that, somehow, resulted in a victory for the hosts. "And if we had Dale Steyn there today, I reckon we would have rolled them out cheaper", he said.

"I was nervous", admitted du Plessis.

"I'd like to think that we're a team that is prepared to take risks to win games of cricket", he said, adding that the decision at the toss was taken because he expected the wicket to get quicker throughout the Test.

"The decision of picking this team was definitely the hardest I have been involved in". Plan was to get 200 runs, to get a lead of 350 and to have a crack at them tonight. But we've got fantastic seam bowlers and if there's anything in the wicket, Vern and the other two guys are awesome.

I was nervous, says du Plessis