Australia v South Africa Tests
Galvanised in adversity, Faf makes his stand
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was a man possessed, driven to succeed on the field after a torrid week off it and silence the detractors
In light of the hounding, humiliation and humbug that he'd endured through the week leading into the final Test, it was understandable that Faf du Plessis felt a sense of reassurance and comfort when he arrived at the Adelaide Oval last Tuesday.
Even though that visit, for South Africa's major training session ahead of their first encounter with a day-night Test match, also included an appointment with series referee Andy Pycroft, who sat in stern judgement of the Proteas' skipper over his breach of the game's Code of Conduct.
Quick Single: Du Plessis guilty of ball tampering
Du Plessis's affinity for the famous ground stretched back four years, when the Adelaide Oval was primarily a building site in the early phase of its stunning redevelopment, and he made his first appearance as a South African Test cricketer.
And immediately announced himself as substantially more than the limited-overs player he had been to that moment, with a second innings century that defied history and everything Australia's exasperated bowlers could launch at him over almost eight hours.
Quick Single: Andrew Ramsey's day one report
The draw that he enabled South Africa to achieve paving the path to a series victory the following week.
So when he was asked, amid the still percolating furore of the sweet sucking furore that ultimately cost him his second Test match fee and – in his own eyes – more than a veneer of credibility, how he felt returning to the Adelaide Oval he was welcomed the query as a raft of respite.
His memories were tinged with humour, as he recalled how he had earned the affinity of the crowd back then by stumbling on to the field in his debut outing, losing a shoe in his clumsy haste to make an immediate impression.
And for the first time in a week, the 32-year-old then allowed a smile to cross his face and palpable pleasure to enter his voice as he spoke of the warm reminisces that flooded through him when he re-acquainted himself with the stadium in its now completed form.
But the generous applause he enjoyed upon leaving the ground at the conclusion of his maiden Test in 2012 – with 110 not out to his name and a reputation as a serious Test batsman in the bank – was notably absent as he walked out to the centre after an hour of play today.
Quick Single: Advantage Australia despite Faf ton
Instead, the usual hospitality and politeness of the South Australian Cricket Association members gave way to a brief but pointed round of booing.
"When I came out (to bat) I was quite aware of it, and as the innings went on it disappeared a bit," du Plessis said tonight as he basked in the satisfaction of his sixth Test century.
"But to be honest, when I got to a hundred I really wasn't expecting to still get booed so that was really disappointing."
The traditional Adelaide niceties afforded a visiting team's captain, with the notable exception of England's Douglas Jardine in that fractious Bodyline summer of 1932-33 that bubbled over in the city, disappeared and in their place came calls of 'show us your mint, Faf'.
Or the slightly more creative 'good luck pal, you look like you're spitting yourself'.
But what the Adelaide Oval crowd had clearly forgotten over the interceding four years, or had failed to observe as du Plessis stubbornly stood his ground as the guilty verdict landed upon him, is that the South Africa skipper loves a scrap.
He is galvanised by adversity.
— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) November 25, 2016
And he set himself for today's fight, well before he entered the contest with his team listing at 3-44 and prior to him making his transition from lovable clown to pantomime villain.
"I was extremely motivated today," du Plessis said tonight after his unbeaten 118 lifted South Africa to a handy first-day total and his opportune declaration caught his opponents on the hop.
Quick Single: Timely declaration catches Warner short
"Every ball almost I told myself that I wasn't satisfied, I was really driven today to make a big performance and a hundred.
"It was a big day for me to stand up as captain and make sure I led from the front.
"I felt it was a character test and the only way I could do it was by scoring runs.
"I've never been that switched on every ball, to say to myself that it's not enough, I want to get a big one."
Du Plessis claimed the scrutiny he endured over the Code of Conduct breach, where he was found guilty of putting an artificial substance on the ball, was not the sole driving force behind today's innings.
He thought it might have contributed an extra "five per cent" to an innate steeliness and a desire to lead his team to an unprecedented 3-0 whitewash against Australia on their own turf.
But while he thanked rival captain Steve Smith for pointing out yesterday that all international teams use the same tactics to shine the ball, it was obvious that what he clearly believes is an unfair slur on his character - to the point where it was confirmed early on Friday that he would appeal the ICC's decision - drove him obsessively today.
To the extent that he was disappointed the game situation and the prospect of bowling to Australia's makeshift openers – an error of which du Plessis was aware and pounced upon – meant he declared his innings closed when he felt he had much more to give.
"I could have gone for another day the way I felt," du Plessis said in rating today's century – his first in Test cricket for almost as two years – as unequivocally his best.
"The way I felt mentally I could have gone for a week, I was so driven.
"And surprisingly, technically I was the best I've been this series. I felt really good."
Even if the crowd that had welcomed him so fondly to Test cricket four years ago had largely turned their back in scorn.
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