Faf du Plessis was in a celebratory mood after South Africa beat England by 340 runs at Trent Bridge in the second of four Tests to level the series, and lauded his team-mates for having gone back to the basics well.
“We did the basics a lot better and put England under pressure for long periods,” du Plessis, who missed the first Test as he went home for the birth of his first child, told Sky Sports.
“We focused on getting back to things this side does really well,” he added of a South Africa side with a proud away record of just one series loss in their 19 previous Test campaigns on the road.
Du Plessis took the bold decision to bat first after winning the toss at Trent Bridge, a ground known for aiding swing bowlers, and was rewarded with a competitive total of 335 all out in their first dig.
With Russell Domingo back home following the death of his mother and the attack missing Kagiso Rabada, banned for one game as a result of swearing at Ben Stokes at Lord’s, South Africa then dismissed England for 205.
Du Plessis’s painstaking 63, demonstrating an ability to graft for runs quite beyond most England batsmen this match, helped South Africa to a second-innings total of 343 for 9 declared.
That left England needing a mammoth 474 for victory, but they collapsed to 133 all out with more than a day to spare on a pitch that, while worn, was no minefield and with sunny blue skies providing some of the best batting conditions of the Test.
Vernon Philander, the Man of the Match, led South Africa’s attack with three wickets for 24 runs in ten overs of accurate fast-medium bowling.
South Africa had collapsed to 119 all out at Lord’s but they were on top at Trent Bridge almost from the start and never let up. “There were periods in the first Test when we played well but then let England dominate us,” said du Plessis. “This was an important Test for us.”
Du Plessis’s boys now have a nine-day break until the start of the third Test at The Oval on July 27, with no tour match in between. But with several of South Africa’s multi-format players in England since May, du Plessis reckoned a break might be no bad thing.
“A few of the guys have had a long tour – I’ve just had a break so I feel mentally refreshed and strong, but I feel a couple of days off will give the guys a chance to relax and get away and in a week’s time come back with the same intensity,” said du Plessis.
For England, the reversal raised questions about their fallible top three, a problem for them when they lost eight Tests last year. Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance have made just 44 and 85 runs respectively in four innings during the series so far.
“No, I don’t think it (the top three) is a concern,” insisted Joe Root. “They just need some runs and to spend some time out in the middle. Credit has to go to South Africa, who played very well over the course of the game, but we’ve got to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Trevor Bayliss, meanwhile, was adamant that no one in the side was trying to hide from the scale of this defeat. “The boys are fairly honest in the changing room and realise they have had a shocker,” he said.