South Africa v England Tests - Men's
England thrash Proteas, du Plessis vows to hang tough
Visitors take 2-1 series lead as pressure builds on South Africa, who could ring the changes for Friday's fourth and final Test
21 January 2020, 07:27 AM AEST
Captain Faf du Plessis says he won't walk away from his beleaguered South Africa team after losing for a seventh time in eight Tests.
England finally wrapped up the third Test on the fifth morning in Port Elizabeth to go 2-1 up in the series with an innings and 53-run victory.
The tourists needed four wickets to complete an emphatic win but took 100 minutes to do so, eventually bowling South Africa out for 237 despite a record last-wicket partnership of 99 between Keshav Maharaj (71) and Dane Paterson (39no).
With the ball disappearing to all parts of the ground, it required a run-out to finish the job, Sam Curran throwing down the stumps as Maharaj sprinted to bring up the century stand.
Afterward, Du Plessis made it clear he would continue for the last test against England, which starts in Johannesburg on Friday, and for two away Tests in the West Indies in mid-year and decide on his future after that.
He said he had no thoughts about stepping down immediately, despite scoring just 123 runs from his last nine Test innings.
The 35-year-old last scored a century in January 2018 and his average has dropped to 40.23.
"From a runs point of view, I'm not up to a level where I should be but I've still got a huge role to play as captain to try and make sure I lift these guys up to fight to win the next Test," he said.
"The worst thing a leader can do is pull the plug mid-series and say, 'sorry boys, I'm out, I've had enough'.
"That's not what leadership is about – you have to stick through the tough times as well.
"For me it's about trying to be as mentally strong as I can and block out all the noise.
"Obviously I've heard a lot of rumours about retirement but I've been pretty clear that I've committed myself to Cricket South Africa until the Twenty20 World Cup (in Australia in October and November)."
Du Plessis said he would then consider whether he continues in Test cricket but did hint he would likely move on and play the limited-overs formats only.
Losing yet another Test – after a 2-0 defeat by Sri Lanka at home last year, then 3-0 away in India and now 2-1 down to England – was a massive blow, he conceded.
"We made huge strides in that first Test (against England) from a confidence point of view," he said. "I felt we turned the corner but now it feels like we've taken a step backwards, especially with our batting.
"England are showing us how to apply yourself, how to get yourself in and how to score big runs.
"That's the only difference between the two teams at the moment."
England captain Joe Root paid tribute to the performances of Ollie Pope, who made 135 not out, and Dom Bess, who took five wickets in the first South African innings.
"It's a great template for how we want to play our cricket moving forward, big first-innings score and drive the game from there," he said.
"I think Ollie batted beautifully with (Ben) Stokesy – a brilliant partnership that put us in a commanding position.
"Then the way 'Bessy' bowled was fantastic in that first innings. From that point on, we always felt we were in control of things.
"Throughout this series, we've had four guys under 25 making five-fers or hundreds, which is a great place to be.
"That's something that we want to keep continuing to provide – an environment where that becomes possible and keep giving those guys confidence."
The result marks a notable achievement for Root and his side, the first time England have enforced a follow-on overseas since 2013 and the first occasion they have done so successfully since 1992 in Christchurch.
The beleaguered Proteas meanwhile, have signalled possible wholesale changes to their team for Friday's fourth and final Test after recalling four players to their squad.
Batsmen Temba Bavuma and Keegan Petersen, left-arm seam bowler Beuran Hendricks and allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo will join the team on Wednesday in Johannesburg, and are considered a good chance of playing at The Wanderers.
South Africa have to do without top bowler Kagiso Rabada, suspended for the fourth Test by the ICC, and are mulling other changes, coach Mark Boucher admitted.
South Africa squad for fourth Test: Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Beuran Hendricks, Keshav Maharaj, Pieter Malan, Anrich Nortje, Dane Paterson, Keegan Petersen, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Dwaine Pretorius, Rassie van der Dussen.