Proteas

Elgar … now to tick that extra box!

2017-03-08 13:15
Dean Elgar (Getty)

Cape Town – Dean Elgar played the lead role in keeping the Proteas’ heads safely above water on day one in Dunedin … but he could also be very instrumental in elevating that situation to something closer to smooth sailing.

If he does manage to soldier onward significantly at the crease in his 33rd Test match, he will pleasingly break new personal statistical ground, too.

Courtesy of the gritty left-hander’s all-day vigil in the first Test against New Zealand for 128 not out on Wednesday, the tourists recovered from a decidedly wobbly start - 22 for three and an unusually funereal early scoring rate of barely above one run to the over - to be more or less level-pegging in bragging rights terms at 229 for four by the close.

The 29-year-old Elgar featured in a critical, restorative century partnership with captain Faf du Plessis, and then an equally valuable unbroken one of 81 with Temba Bavuma.

That particular alliance before stumps on a sunny but seemingly trademark chilly Otago day was especially praiseworthy as both batsmen have had unusually little opportunity to acquaint themselves with New Zealand conditions - there was no warm-up game for the benefit of those South Africans who did not feature in the prior one-day hostilities - and are playing their first Test match on that novel, challenging soil in each case.

Just given the type of trench-scrapper he unquestionably is, Elgar’s wicket as quickly as possible on day two will be the main aim of the Black Caps’ attack, still powered by a fairly gleaming second new ball.

But there is plenty of incentive, beyond just his natural devotion to the team cause, for the Welkom-born opener to keep prospering in this knock.

It was Elgar’s seventh Test century, and a temperamentally and technically authoritative one, and already he is just two runs away from eclipsing his personal best in the format – 129 against Sri Lanka at Newlands two Test matches back.

His renowned durability suggests a double-century is almost inevitable at some point, even if it did famously take the great Jacques Kallis 242 innings (Elgar has had only 51, including the current one!) to achieve that landmark.

But just getting to a first-time 150 or a tad more in a Test would be a pleasing development for the moment, confirming that Elgar has it comfortably within him to register a genuine “big ‘un”.

After all, established colleagues in the SA top five like Hashim Amla and JP Duminy - though both notably failed at University Oval on Wednesday, the latter undone by a real snorter - have long ticked that particular 150-or-more box.

Amla sports the country’s all-time best score of 311 not out against England at The Oval, plus as many as six other innings of 150 or more, whilst even the enigmatic Duminy, who is starting to become a bit of a weight-of-delivery concern across the international codes all over again, boasts a highest effort of 166 against Australia and another score of 155 against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers recently.

Elgar does boast a first-class career best of 268 at the closest possible level down from Test-match combat - he registered that marathon figure for SA ‘A’ against their strong Australian counterparts in an unofficial Test at Pretoria in July 2013.

Included in the Aussie line-up on that occasion were such names as David Warner, Josh Hazlewood and Aaron Finch, only proving that the feisty customer has what it takes mentally and physically to extend a good personal day at the crease well into another.

Towards the end of day one in Dunedin, Elgar was struggling with what appeared to be some pain in both a forearm and the hip area, although they may have been more cramp-related than anything else - and he is the type of character anyway to almost get an extra motivational kick out of adversity.

Maybe we shouldn’t bet too readily against Elgar carrying his bat through the completed Proteas first innings, even if that is obviously a reasonably long shot at this point.

He has done it before, notably scoring 118 not out in a well sub-standard collective first innings of 214 all out against England at Kingsmead in December 2015 …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  sa in nz  |  dean elgar  |  cricket
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