Pieter Malan and Rassie van der Dussen couldn't quite believe that they were out in the middle trying to save a Test match together for their country.
There was a period yesterday morning when Pieter Malan and Rassie Van der Dussen possibly just wanted the time to stop proceedings in order for them to pinch themselves.
As if they couldn’t quite believe that they were out in the middle of glorious Newlands trying to save a Test match together for their country. Malan and Van der Dussen had dreamed about this moment many times while coming through the ranks at Northerns. Both have had to move from the capital – Van der Dussen across the Jukskei to Gauteng and Malan further south down here to the Cape – to achieve their dreams.
But here they were living and enjoying every moment of it. It wasn’t easy work, but Malan in particular was laying down his anchor to keep the English at bay.
The 30-year-old seems tailor-made for this situation though. Much like England’s Dom Sibley, who struck a career-best 133 not out to set the game up for the visitors, Malan is almost “old-school” in his approach to batting. He doesn’t become distracted with all the trimmings of T20 cricket and instead pours all his energies into the red-ball format.
He works tirelessly with his franchise coach and former Proteas batsman Ashwell Prince on knowing exactly where his off stump is. He even exaggerates the leave just to let the bowler know that he is in control of the situation. South Africa have rarely had any batsmen with such good judgement since the likes of Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis.
It’s the latter’s job now to work with Malan and ensure that he is adept to take the step up to international level. On Monday evening Malan certainly showed he had the tools to be successful in the Test arena, compiling his maiden Test half-century from 144 balls – only finding the boundary twice in this period.
“The fight he has shown today – he knows his game pretty well. He played the situation perfectly,” Kallis said. “He knows how to switch on and switch off. He is very organised and I was very impressed with the mental capabilities he has got.”
Regardless of whether Malan indeed managed to help South Africa avoid losing a New Year Test at Newlands for this first time since readmission, he has done enough to warrant further selection for this series. Aiden Markram remains on the sidelines through injury and the selectors have given Temba Bavuma notice that he needs to dominate the domestic scene before there can be any talk of a return to the Test side.
“He is very organised and he’s a fighter, which is something that you want at the top of the order and in a situation like this. He has obviously got a very good technique. He knows his game pretty well from the amount of first-class runs he’s got.”
Malan fell 16 runs short of a maiden Test century, but he will always remember the day and his best mate Van Der Dussen took their backyard cricket dreams to the theatre of Newlands.