Cricket news - Du Plessis open to reconsidering team balance for Pune

The South Africa captain admitted that the first-innings batting effort had opened up the possibility of inverting the 2-3 pace-spin balance heading into the Pune Test

Faf du Plessis was disappointed but despondent at the end of an energy-sapping Test match in Visakhapatnam. A little physical fatigue is nothing compared to carrying years of mental scars, which was exactly what many players, including du Plessis, took back from their tour of 2015. The South Africa captain went as far as using the word "proud" and "brilliant" to describe his team's fighting qualities, which kept South Africa in with a chance of forcing at least a draw until Lunch on the fourth day, post which the game unravelled rather spectacularly.

"I thought it was a real line in the sand for us as a team," du Plessis said. "Really proud of the first innings, the way we batted. There was an opportunity for us to go the other way and we didn't. We played really well, senior players put their hands up in Quinny [de Kock] and Dean [Elgar] getting fantastic hundreds and to get 400 in the sub-continent is never anything easy to do. The way we responded, it was brilliant.

"There were a few half-chances [in the second innings] that didn't go our way and that's sort of where the game slipped away. We tried to stay in the fight, stay in the contest. But the way Rohit played, especially in that second innings, made it tough for us."

The South Africa captain admitted that the first-innings batting effort had opened up the possibility of inverting the 2-3 pace-spin balance heading into the Pune Test starting on October 10. In a move away from their traditional strength - seam - South Africa fielded three spinners and struggled to control the game for large parts of the contest with India's batsmen, particularly Rohit Sharma, targeting Dane Piedt and Senuran Muthusamy.

"It was difficult to try and slow the game down, obviously bowling a lot of spin," he said. "Pace of play was really fast and when they got momentum that they had at that stage, it just felt that it was really difficult to stop the scoring. From a combination point of view, it is difficult to say. If you look, apart from today, seamers didn't play that much of a role in this Test match. One wicket, two wickets maybe in an innings. They played a holding role more in the first four days.

"Whether an extra seamer would have made a difference, I am not sure if it would have. Definitely day five, we saw that there was huge value in the seam. Obviously the up and down. But that is something for us to consider now moving into the next Test match. Whatever we feel is our best opportunity in getting 20 wickets because that's what you need to win Test matches and obviously we couldn't do in this Test match, couldn't bowl them out. That's something we will definitely look at and see how we can counter that."

Central to the balance discussion is Muthusamy, who enhanced his chances of playing in Pune by remaining unbeaten over 214 deliveries across two innings. However, if he is to play as the all-rounder and facilitate the inclusion of an extra seamer, then he would have to bowl more than the 18 he did over the match, which included just three overs in India's second innings. Du Plessis said Muthusamy's batting potential would hold him in good stead going into the remainder of the series.

"He played unbelievably well. You could see that technically he is very sound against spin which is something he has worked really hard on. I haven't seen much of him personally over my career but great to see that he offers us balance. Obviously bowls a bit as well, so it helps.

"[But] the batting at the No. 7 and 8 position, it's always something that we are really looking for as a team. Batted with real maturity and both innings. He still hasn't been out in Test cricket. Making it hard for us not to look at him, even leaving him out in the second Test. He is putting up the numbers on the scoreboard, which is what we want. It's not easy to get runs and he showed that he has got the technique to get through the challenging spin conditions. That's a huge attribute to have for this Test series."

Du Plessis also backed his deputy Temba Bavuma to deliver at No. 4, a position the captain relinquished in order to spread the experience over an otherwise inexperienced line-up in transition post the retirements of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla. Bavuma, widely tipped as being among the more technically accomplished batsmen in the current setup, fell to deliveries that didn't rise in either innings at Vizag, dismissals that were deemed unlucky by his captain.

"The reason why I initially moved to No. 5 was that I was more equipped to play both roles in the middle and in the beginning," du Plessis said. "When you are batting with the tail, I can take the game on as well. Similar with Quinton [de Kock]. That's the reason why you try and split up your experienced and your young players up.

"Hash has gone now. Temba has played 30-odd Tests [37] but before it was Hash at 3, the younger batsman at 4, the experience at 5 and then Qunniy with his free-flow at 6. Now that Hash is not there, the reason why Temba is batting at No. 4 is that he is technically a very, very good player. You might say his numbers probably don't back that up but technically he is one of our better players and we know that. We are just trying to give him that backing that he deserves, the confidence to bat in a big position, at No. 4.

"We believe that he will get the runs. I thought he was very unlucky this innings, getting two balls for a guy that's two foot one to get two that stay low it is very unlucky. He is batting really well, he batted very well in the warm-up game, so I have got a lot of confidence in him that he will come good. Even now, being the vice-captain, leadership will help him get some more runs for the team and he is going to be a big player for the Proteas going forward."