The crunch of spikes on concrete resounded through the warren of corridors deep in the Lillee Marsh Stand at the Waca yesterday.
Out on the field, the poignance of a game won and lost was all around. Nothing and no one moved as another long Perth afternoon burnished the scene.
But the wonder of it all hung heavy in the air. Like it did in 2008 and again in 2012.
This time it hung heavier still.
South Africa, without AB de Villiers, without for the most part Dale Steyn, with a single run in two innings from the famously broad bat of Hashim Amla, with only two seamers, a debutant and a host of parttimers, with Australia on 158 without loss in reply to their first innings of 242 at stumps after the second day, had won the first test by 177 runs.
How had that happened? Faf du Plessis gave the answer, but he took his time.
After all, there was no hurry. Nothing could take the feeling away.
Nothing could fade either the smile on Du Plessis’s face or the gleam in his eye.
That was in contrast to Australian captain Steve Smith, who, a few minutes after the after-match press conference began, snuck out looking like he would rather be somewhere else. Anywhere else.
Who could blame him? He had had to explain Australia’s fourth loss on the bounce in test cricket, their sixth consecutive defeat to South Africa if we are counting last month’s one-day series, and the first time they had gone down in the first test of a home summer since 1988.
Then came Du Plessis, and his thoughts tumbled out in a happy stream of consciousness.
“In my career, that’s one of the most special days,” he said.
“To turn it around 360 degrees from day one where we were under the pump and under a lot of pressure, to turn it around on day two was one of the best days of cricket I’ve been involved in.”
“To have a seamer down pretty much the whole test match and to do what we’ve done – we always joke about it, that if you lose a seamer in a three-seamer attack, it’s 99% impossible to win a game of test cricket because it’s just too much workload on the bowlers.”
“Somehow we managed to do it and there’s a lot of credit that goes to this man over here.”
With that he landed a hearty slap on the thigh of Kagiso Rabada sitting beside him as the man of the match for his 5/92 in the second innings.
“He’s put up his hand and he’s bowled really well. And also Keshav [Maharaj]. “He relentlessly bowled in a good area and made sure we could rotate the guys from the other end and just build a bit of pressure.”
“That’s right up there with the best test matches for me in my career. We said this morning we wanted to take it to tea.”
“We wanted to be the team that fights the whole day,” Du Plessis said.
“We weren’t expecting it to be easy and it wasn’t. “It was a proper game of test cricket and it finished just how we wanted it to.”
Australia, looking to bat all day, resumed on 169/4.
That was always going to be unlikely, but to get through them South Africa needed bottomless patience and expert management of their resources.
They showed ample amounts of both, and reaped the rewards.
None more so than Rabada, who earned a special tribute from his captain.
“I’m sleeping with him tonight,” Du Plessis said as he hugged the fast bowler.
“KG just wanted the ball. Every time I asked him if he was tired, if he was done, he said, ‘No. You’re not taking the ball out of my hand’. “That’s a sign of a champion bowler for me.”