JP Duminy has a mixed set of memories against Australia.
On his debut in Perth, he scored an unbeaten 50 and then followed it up with an emphatic 166 in Melbourne which resulted in the now famous "you beauty, you superstar" exclamation from Mark Nicholas. Then, when South Africa visited there in 2012, he was ruled out of the first Test after snapping his Achilles during a regulation warm-down exercise.
He now has some more fine memories for the archive. He passed 1,000 runs in Test cricket and scored another century. In a press conference I attended last week he said that he was "pretty amped to do well against the Aussies" and, boy, did he do well.
JP Duminy 1000 Test runs: took 5y-2m-5d days since debut, the longest time taken by any South African since readmission in 1992 #SAvAus— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) February 21, 2014
Duminy had gone seven innings without passing 28, managing just 77 runs in total in that time period. It had been almost a year without scoring a hundred. His place in the side was under scrutiny with a few younger players knocking on the selection door. A response was required and Duminy delivered in more ways than one.
Dropping down the order to seven to make room for Quinton de Kock at six—which could have been taken negatively—Duminy constructed a patient and calm innings. He defied the pressure and notched up a knock to remember, admitting that the lively support from the Port Elizabeth band added to the occasion, despite his nerves.
When he spoke to us at the close-of-play press conference, Duminy said:
There were a few butterflies around. It was a big day for the team and a big day for me personally. The most important thing was that we built a partnership. When the band is screaming 'JP jou lekker ding' [JP, you good thing], it raises a few goosebumps.
Just like that day in Perth, it was a career-defining moment for Duminy and he knew it.
His celebration, or lack thereof, said as much. For a moment or two, he remained on one knee before a subtle raise of the bat acknowledged the crowd who had supported him throughout it all and the team-mates which backed him. Not long after he was out to an unnecessary reverse sweep, but he wasn't done proving his point just yet.
With Robin Peterson dropped from the team, Duminy also had a role to play with the ball. He picked up two wickets in the Test and was particularly impressive in the second innings with 14 overs at an economy rate of just 2.35. Although he often does dish up the lollipops to the opposition, Duminy proved he can balance the team with an all-round role for South Africa.
Career-defining moments don't come around for all players—but for some, they come around more than once and Duminy has now taken both his chances to shine when they have come up. Although he has often looked dubious under pressure in the limited-overs format, especially when a crunch game needs winning, Duminy has excelled when it's mattered most in Tests.
One of the many reasons Test cricket is so special is because of the characters it produces. The resilience and the fight players show can be heartwarming—not just for those playing but for those watching far beyond the boundary rope.
As a player, this knock meant the world to Duminy. For South Africa, it means a lot from a selection perspective. For the fans, it's an endearing reminder what a little bit of dogged determination can help you achieve.