Du Plessis the hero as Proteas cling on for draw
Du Plessis the hero as Proteas cling on for draw
Man-of-the-match Du Plessis occupied the crease for almost eight hours in a feat of physical and mental endurance to ensure the Proteas avoided defeat and took the three-Test series to a decider starting in Perth on Friday.
Australia must win the series to take the world No.1 ranking from South Africa.
“We tried everything in our power. We had a red-hot crack. It was unfortunate we didn’t get over the line,” said Australia skipper Michael Clarke.
“But we didn’t lose the Test so we can take a lot of positives out of that. We have to make sure physically we are as well prepared as we can for a crucial Test in Perth.” In a gripping finish, lion-hearted fast bowler Peter Siddle had Dale Steyn caught at mid-wicket for a duck and then bowled Rory Kleinveldt (3) with a yorker.
Siddle gave everything in the final over of the Test in search of the last two wickets but Morne Morkel held on.
It was the second time the South Africans had batted out for a draw in the series after denying Australia’s unlikely victory push in the Brisbane opener earlier this month.
“It’s (the draw) really a strengthening point for us considering we haven’t played very well,” said South African skipper Graeme Smith.
“We had another couple of big injuries in this Test match that created a hassle for us and we still managed to scrap through after not being in great positions.” Du Plessis finished unconquered on 110 with Morkel not out on eight in South Africa’s 248 for eight.
“I just tried to keep my game plan very simple. Make them bowl at me and just take it an hour by an hour,” he said.
“If you looked at it yesterday, it was quite a long way away. AB (de Villiers) and Jacques (Kallis) really helped me a lot. They kept me calm, especially in the 90s.” Du Plessis, who scored 78 in the first innings, was at the crease for 464 minutes and faced 376 balls in his draining knock.
The 28-year-old several times sought on-field physio treatment for cramps.
“I think it just makes it a little bit more sweeter. One day when I look back, I can say I pushed through the physical side of things,” he said.
He was dropped on 94 on the penultimate ball before tea when wicketkeeper Matthew Wade failed to hold onto a tough chance while standing up to the stumps to paceman Hilfenhouse.
Du Plessis also survived two reviews after being given out by umpire Billy Bowden.
The first was when he was on 33 when he padded up without offering a shot to Michael Clarke’s spin. The review found the ball pitched just outside the line.
Du Plessis was given out again after an lbw appeal by Clarke on 37, but another review showed there was no contact with the pad and the debutant batted on.
The all-rounder’s joy at reaching his milestone was tempered by the loss of the injury-restricted Kallis five balls later.
Kallis was caught off bat and pad at short leg by Ed Cowan from Nathan Lyon for 46 to end a gritty 99-run stand in 149 minutes with du Plessis.
The champion all-rounder played an invaluable knock even though restricted in his mobility by a hamstring injury.
The Proteas lost the wicket of AB de Villiers shortly after lunch when he was bowled by Peter Siddle for 33 with one that nipped back to clip off-stump.
De Villiers faced 220 balls in his stoic boundary-less knock in a study of concentration, putting on 89 runs for the fifth wicket with du Plessis in 68 overs.
The Proteas gave no thought to chasing down a huge and unlikely victory target of 430, scoring just 135 runs on the final day off 67 overs up to tea.
Skipper Smith paid tribute to his team’s fighting performance.
“You had that little bit of hope this morning, but at four down last night, you know probably the writing is on the wall,” he said.
“For me it was incredible to see the guys who represented us out there today, the skill, determination and the pride they took in their performances.”
Australia (first innings): 550
South Africa (first innings): 388
Australia (second innings): 267 for 8 decl.
South Africa (second innings):
A. Petersen b Siddle 24
G. Smith c Ponting b Hilfenhaus 0
H. Amla c Clarke b Lyon 17
J. Rudolph c Cowan b Lyon 3
AB de Villiers b Siddle 33
F. du Plessis not out 110
J. Kallis c Cowan b Lyon 46
D. Steyn c Quiney b Siddle 0
R. Kleinveldt b Siddle 3
M. Morkel not out 8
Total: (for 8 wkts) 248
Fall of wkts: 1-3, 2-36, 3-45, 4-45, 5-134, 6-233, 7-234, 8-240.
Bowling: Hilfenhaus 34-16-65-1, Siddle 33-15-65-4 (1nb), Clarke 18-5-34-0, Lyon 50-31-49-3, Warner 6-0-29-0, Quiney 6-3-4-0 (1w), Ponting 1-1-0-0.
Arabian Gulf League CEO shares bright vision for the future
- Waleed Al-Hosani has been Arabian Gulf League CEO for 18 months
- Al-Hosani's vision for the league includes making attending matches more appealing to fans
DUBAI In an unassuming office
block above an Audi showroom in Abu Dhabi, Waleed Al-Hosani is plotting the future of professional football in the UAE.
It is a task that requires creativity and the Pro League Committee (PLC) workspace is certainly conducive to that; a replica substitutes’ bench complete with leather chairs sits in the reception area, while a running track weaves its way among the desks and chairs.
The PLC office is bright and innovative, mirroring Al-Hosani, who for 18 months has been the organization’s CEO. In that time, the Emirati has already demonstrated significantly more foresight than his predecessors. Al-Hosani’s goal is to reinvigorate the Arabian Gulf League (AGL).
From the outside, it may appear that it does not need reinvigorating. UAE clubs have appeared in two of the past three AFC Champions League finals and the UAE has been ranked as the AFC’s best league for the past four years. Millions of dollars have been plowed into the AGL, with marquee players improving the standard of football and ensuring progress to the latter stages of continental tournaments.
Competitiveness is not, however, the criteria that concerns Al-Hosani.
Last season, the average attendance for AGL matches was just 2,500. The league commands some princely sums in TV rights and reportedly attracts an impressive viewership of up to eight million people. But empty stands are a source of both embarrassment and worry.
Tackling this fan apathy is the central tenet of the PLC’s new four-year plan, introduced at the start of the 2017-18 season.
“Poor attendances is the biggest issue we are facing in the Arabian Gulf League,” Al Hosani told Arab News.
“When the Pro League Committee first launched in 2007, the focus was on investing in the teams, getting better players from around the world and creating a big buzz in the media.
“Unfortunately they didn’t manage to balance this with community engagement. This has resulted in clubs becoming closed, not realizing the role they can play in the community and the responsibilities they have to preserve and develop their fanbase.”
This failure by the clubs strikes a personal chord with Al-Hosani. Raised within a stone’s throw from Al-Wahda FC in Abu Dhabi, the PLC chief spent his childhood immersed in the club.
“For many of us, Al-Wahda was our life,” he recalled. “Of course we played football there whenever we could. But beyond that they put on classes to helped us with maths and English, we went bowling — there were a lot of activities. It created loyalty between us and the club.
“Somewhere along the way, this was lost. You look around the AGL and that sort of environment doesn’t exist. I think I’m fortunate I had this experience in my childhood as I can now try to recreate that feeling for people again.”
Diverting money away from transfers and salaries and into infrastructure has been the PLC’s main aim this season. Each club now has a budget set aside for marketing and community activities, which must be designed with long-term benefits in mind.
“A lot of clubs want to use the money for prizes but you cannot buy loyalty. A few years ago, Al-Jazira did an amazing giveaway — if you attended matches you could win a Ferrari. It received a lot of attention and attendances exploded that season.
“It was a nice project but when it finished, the fans were gone. The people didn’t come for the club, they came for the prizes. We want to avoid that — we want to build a new, loyal generation of supporters.”
Al-Hosani is demanding that clubs focus their efforts on engagement with supporters. He wants to see community initiatives and liaison with schools and neighborhoods — in order to create a greater sense of belonging.
The matchday experience, too, is a target for improvement. It has been lacking for some time for UAE football fans, who have grown accustomed to broken Wi-Fi and closed food and beverage outlets. The rebuilding and refurbishment of a number of stadiums ahead of next year’s Asian Cup in the UAE will be a welcome boost for supporters.
“The improved stadiums will help many clubs,” Al-Hosani explained. “But it’s not enough — we want them to build fan zones, F&B structures — anything that improves the experience of going to an AGL match for fans.
“This change is not easy as most clubs have never thought about it, but that is why we are providing workshops and education so they can understand how to engage with the fans and increase the attendances.”Even the act of purchasing a ticket is now significantly easier. It seems remarkable that just a year ago, the majority of UAE football supporters could only buy a ticket when they arrived at the stadium. The introduction of a new central online ticketing system, in English and Arabic, has created a more efficient mechanism that also opens up the AGL to a wider audience.
Attracting expats and tourists to games has long been regarded as the Holy Grail for the AGL. Almost 90 percent of the country’s population are non-UAE nationals, but in the 11 years since the Pro League Committee was formed it has failed to unlock the secret of how to get them to matches. More accessible tickets is the first step, according to Al-Hosani, who has been encouraging clubs to recognize the importance of diversifying their fanbase. “Reaching out to expats is of course vitally important. I’m not sure why we are so late to do this but based on my experience when I was a fan of the league, I think the initiatives weren’t consistent. Maybe they did one campaign and then stopped for two years before doing another one. “We are working on future promotional activities. We will go to beaches, malls, public gardens — we will do kids’ activities, entertainment, competitions — we want people to know the AGL. The key is to be patient and persistent.”
A desire for quick wins has long been an issue for both the league and its clubs, who are notoriously trigger-happy with their managers. Al-Hosani and his PLC team are working hard to change that mentality and have already made admirable inroads. “As any change anywhere in the world, it’s difficult,” Al-Hosani said. “People are afraid of the unknown, this is natural. There will be resistance but there is a growing understanding that these changes will benefit UAE football in the long term.”