In 2019, Faf du Plessis scored 814 ODI runs from nineteen matches.
Although he batted in seventeen innings of the matches he played that year, he struck an impressive six fifties along with two impressive centuries.
That’s eight fifty plus scores in a single calendar year.
Though, here’s the impressive part.
Doing simple schoolboy math suggests that Faf du Plessis either fired a fifty or a fifty-plus knock in nearly half the innings he played that year.
But, what’s the real standout?
Of his 814 ODI runs in 2019, 387, to be precise, came in the pinnacle of Men’s Cricket: the ODI World Cup.
That’s almost half his runs scored in fifty-over cricket that very year.
And that’s not all.
It happened when Faf wasn’t shepherded by a leader, but rather was the man-in-charge himself of an impressive line-up.
A line-up that despite not featuring the great AB de Villiers, boasted redoubtable names such as Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Adrian Markram, and David Miller.
So with quintessential Protea fighting spirit and inbred resilience, Faf du Plessis led his troops to embrace the World Cup challenge and landed foot in Her Majesty’s kingdom.
It was where he and his men were to lock horns with cricketers gladiatorial in might and of nearly indefatigable talent.
Which is why facing a vast contingent of record breaking, and undoubtably capable names such as Rohit Sharma, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli, David Warner, Chris Gayle, Mitchell Starc, Kane Williamson, Ben Stokes, Carlos Brathwaite, Rashid Khan, Shai Hope and Mohd. Nabi, to quote a few seemed arduous.
Truth be told, the mega cricketing fiesta was to have to have been an adventure for Faf’s troops. And even as massive legends like AB and Steyn and Philander were no longer around to add further gravitas to an enterprising unit, the Proteas contingent was still powered by world class names.
Why – and who would- take an Amla, Miller or Rabada lightly?
And yet, when the contests began for South Africa, they didn’t really get going.
One defeat after another, beginning with the game conceded to England, Bangladesh and India, in that order, followed by a no-result against the ebullient West Indies deflated the Proteas campaign.
Things were anything but ideal. What hurt Faf du Plessis and team the most weren’t defeats alone; rather their magnitude.
For instance, South Africa lost to England by a massive margin of 104 runs. They came close in the contest versus Bangladesh, but yet lost by 21 runs. The Protean agony compounded further thanks to India snubbing them by six wickets, yet another comprehensive defeat.
Though that wasn’t all; more misery would follow when the game against the Windies was washed out and hence, a no result followed.
Yet, one man kept up the fight for his team. That’s when mighties like Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock, two excellent talents with world class reputation, didn’t quite fire with usual gusto and fashion.
That man was Faf du Plessis.
By the time he approached the July 6, 2019 game against Australia, a team only the fool would do the errand of taking lightly, he’d already scored innings like the 62 against Bangladesh (53 deliveries), the vital 38 versus India (54 deliveries), and the dogged 63 against Pakistan (79 deliveries).
The real downer, though, was that Faf was at the crease when the game against the Windies was called off and hence a no result ensued whilst he didn’t get to bat against Afghanistan. A rare occasion where his top order plied their skills in an exhibition of merciless hammering of Afghanistan.
So one could say, it was fitting in some sense that Faf du Plessis reserved his best for the much-exciting and massive contest against the Aussies.
And interestingly, the July 6 encounter was to be South Africa’s final game of the campaign. A campaign, where they endured no fewer than four defeats and even suffered the ignominy of seeing their hopes for further qualification sink in deep waters thanks to the no-show against the Windies.
Therefore, to a dejected Protea camp, which by such time, wasn’t just the fan base that ran in millions, but also, those playing the live contest, something had to give.
The team had to deliver a breakthrough of sorts, and what could be better, one thought, than ending a miserable campaign on a high in their final outing.
And the man who delivered just that was none other than the Proteas skipper. The right hander, who against a Behrendorff, Lyon, Cummins, and not to forget, Starc-led attack, fired the only century that a South African managed in the 2019 World Cup.
It was Francois Faf du Plessis.
Batting first on the dead rubber contest of July 6, 2019, Faf turned the game into a no-holds-barred exhibition of blistering batting, the likes of which provided a soothing, very balm-like solace to the headache the World Cup (thus far) was.
In taking no more than 94 deliveries, Faf touched a famous hundred, a valiant signature of authority against a side that unfailingly checks the authority of the best in the sport we so love.
But much of what Faf achieved on a balmy Manchester afternoon was partly thanks to a rising talent, lower order batsman, Rassie van der Dussen.
Rassie, the tall gallant force without whom one cannot imagine the current firmament of Proteas cricket.
Together, Faf and Rassie put on a strong, definitive and ultimately, match winning 151-run stand for the third wicket.
In so doing, they bailed out a struggling line up that despite the early promise of Markram and De Kock quickly seemed appear akin to a rocky boat.
But there was a sense of gladness in that Faf Du Plessis led by an example and soldiered on for nearly 32 overs, butchering the bad balls and carving the probing deliveries with a sense of grace.
He was, at his best, a figure of poise against Australia. That’s despite having been jolted much too badly in the tournament even before entering the game where, had South Africa lost, it would’ve hurt the Protean pride.
Importantly, the middle order duo of Faf and Rassie propelled the team to a solid 325 run total, in reply to which Australia ended ten runs short.
But that was largely thanks to Kagiso Rabada-led three-for, a fine bowling act supported equally well by the rising fast bowling force- Dwaine Pretorius, and the experienced Andile Phelukwayo, both of whom emerged with two wickets apiece.
Having said that, for stroking a much-needed century from just 94 deliveries, the Proteas captain, who fired two sixes along with seven boundaries, was adjudged the man of the match.
Through rather surprisingly so and for reasons best known to the cricket administrators of South Africa, Faf never got to play another ODI since the blazing Manchester contest.
That’s when he not only scored the most runs by a Protea in that World Cup edition but gave the team something to cheer about in what was clearly a dismal 2019 ride in England.
But is that all? It’s been three years since the whirlwind Cricket World Cup and Faf’s tally of ODI contests still stands seven games shy of touching 150 games, which is, needless to say, a huge landmark for any international.
The question that’s gone unanswered until such time, is whether the lion-hearted performer of South Africa, who’s always put his team before his own ambitions, deserved such treatment?
Here’s how Faf fared in the 2019 ODI men’s World Cup
9 matches, 387, avg 64, 1 ton, 3 fifties, SR 89.5. Career SR 88
The following is how SA batsmen fared in the 2019 ODI World Cup
Hashim Amla – 7 matches, 203 runs, batting avg 40, 2 fifties, highest score 80*, SR of 64
Quinton de Kock – 9 matches, 305 runs, 3 fifties, batting avg 38, highest score 68, SR of 86
Aiden Markram – 8 matches, 140 runs, batting avg 23, highest score 45, SR of 75
Rassie van der Dussen– 9 matches, 6 innings, 1 not out, 311 runs, batting avg 62, highest score 95, SR of 90
David Miller – 6 matches, 4 innings, 136 runs, batting avg 34, highest score 38, SR of 86.6