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
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
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
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