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Du Plessis becomes national hero by earning South Africa incredible draw

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Faf du Plessis produced one of the finest defensive innings in South African cricket history to secure an astonishing draw in the second Test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval on Monday. Resuming on a precarious 77-4 and needing to bat the entire day to prevent the home team taking a one-nil lead, Du Plessis survived until the close moving from his overnight 19 not out to finish with a maiden Test century as South Africa closed on 248-8 from a mammoth 148 overs.

The Nashua Titans right-hander's unbeaten 110 was crafted from 376 deliveries faced over the course of seven hours and 44 minutes.

The Affies pair of Du Plessis and AB de Villiers survived the entire morning session although not without three moments of extreme drama, all concerning Du Plessis who was twice given out by umpire Billy Bowden before being reprieved by the Decision Review System. He needed third umpire Asad Rauf's assistance once again when an lbw appeal was referred by off spinner Nathan Lyon on the stroke of lunch.

The first reprieve, and lbw appeal by Michael Clarke, was shown to be pitching fractionally outside leg-stump. The second, another lbw appeal by Clarke, was shown to hit Du Plessis' bat rather than pad. Lyon's lbw appeal showed the ball passing over the stumps.

At lunch Du Plessis was unbeaten on 49 from 177 deliveries while De Villiers' marathon exercise in self-denial had seen him reach 31 from over 200 deliveries.

The breakthrough finally arrived four overs after the break when a Peter Siddle delivery snuck between bat and pad to hit the top of off-stump. De Villiers' 33 lasted five minutes over four hours from 220 balls. He did not hit a single boundary. Never before has he played an innings of such unnatural restraint.

Jacques Kallis then defied his injured hamstring and batted another 40 overs in the company of Du Plessis to reach the tea break at 212-5 with the batsmen on 38 and 94 respectively. There was little to hint at the drama to come but the Adelaide Oval has a history of producing dramatic final sessions – and this was no exception.

Kallis (46) was caught at short leg 11 overs after tea and a heroic, final spell from an exhausted Siddle produced two further wickets when Dale Steyn (0 from 28 balls) chipped a low full toss to midwicket and Rory Kleinveldt (3 from 17) was bowled by a searing yorker.

With Du Plessis suffering cramp and dehydration in the final half-hour, Morne Morkel was left to negotiate the last two overs. With a small but vociferous crowd roaring for further wickets, he calmly played a straight bat where applicable and the umpires called time at 5:32pm.

"We didn't play well in this Test match but we scrapped hard and we are still here," said Proteas captain Graeme Smith. "We will have to regroup in the next three days before the Perth Test but we'll certainly take a lot of spirit and confidence from what happened here."

"That hurt us a bit, no doubt about that," conceded Michael Clarke. "Not to be able to win was very disappointing, but we didn't lose the game. We didn't win it, but we didn't lose it either."

Teams:

Australia: E Cowan, D Warner, R Quiney, R Ponting, M Clarke(c), M Hussey, M Wade(wk), N Lyon, P Siddle, J Pattinson, B Hilfenhaus

South Africa: A Petersen, G Smith(c), H Amla, J Kallis, AB de Villiers(wk), F du Plessis, J Rudolph, D Steyn, R Kleinveldt, M Morkel, I Tahir

Mini-Scorecard:

Australia 1st Innings 550 all out (107.2 overs, 5.12 rpo)
M Clarke 230 (257) J Kallis 2-19
D Warner 119 (112) M Morkel 5-146

South Africa 1st Innings 388 all out (124.3 overs, 3.11 rpo)
G Smith 122 (244) B Hilfenhaus 3-49
F du Plessis 78 (159) N Lyon 2-91

Australia 2nd Innings 268-8 declared (70 overs, 3.81 rpo)
D Warner 41 (60) R Kleinveldt 3-65
M Hussey 54 (95) M Morkel 3-50

South Africa 2nd Innings 248-8 (148 overs, 1.67 rpo)
F du Plessis 110* (376) P Siddle 4-65
J Kallis 46 (110) N Lyon 3-49

Match drawn