South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Port Elizabeth, 1st day

Elgar shows SA what they are missing

Two days after being dropped from the list of contracted players, Dean Elgar demonstrated the technique and composure needed to face down Mitchell Johnson and co

Firdose Moonda in Port Elizabeth

February 20, 2014

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Cullinan: SA gifted wickets to Australia

After surviving a hostile first spell from Mitchell Johnson, who bowled the first 12 balls he faced, waiting 20 deliveries and 42 minutes to get his first run, seeing Faf du Plessis accelerate past him but not caring as he perfected his own timing and placement and finding the space to bat with relative freedom, Dean Elgar finally ran out of patience. Who could blame him after the week he has had.

On Sunday, Elgar would have started dreaming of a Test recall after hearing Ryan McLaren was ruled out of the Port Elizabeth match. By Monday, he may even have sent his whites to get washed in anticipation of playing when he heard Andrew Hudson, the convener of selectors, say the No. 7 position could be filled by an extra batsman and that person would come from within the squad. Elgar was the only extra batsman in the original 15.

On Tuesday, he would have shelved all thoughts of that, or of playing for South Africa in the near future. That was the day he learned that from April, he will no longer receive a salary from Cricket South Africa. Elgar was one of two players in the Test squad, the other being Thami Tsolekile, who were cut from the contract list.

Elgar makes most of good news

  • Shortly after Dean Elgar found out he was cut from CSA's central contract list, he was told he would probably play in the Test match. "It was the bad news first and then soften the blow with some good news," Elgar said. "It was disappointing news ahead of a big Test but there was added motivation to show people that maybe they made the wrong choice."
  • Elgar was even more pleased that his Test comeback allowed him to bat where he is most comfortable. "I'm more at home opening the batting, I've done it for 90-odd first-class games," he said. And he focused on that rather than his record against Australia - a pair on debut. "That wasn't at the back of my mind. A lot of positives came out of what happened. I have a learnt a lot and developed into a more experienced cricketer."
  • His absorbing of pressure was the clearest sign of that and Elgar said he expects the pitch to become tougher to bat on as the match goes on. "At one stage, it was like I couldn't get sand in the desert," he said. "It was hard graft. PE plays like this - low and slow. It's a patience game. This is the slowest I've seen PE play in a while but it's also credit to the Australian bowlers. They identified the conditions and adapted."
  • South Africa's total, while not substantial yet, could still be handy. "First innings runs are golden at St George's," he said.
  • Almost as valuable as a central contract? Elgar wouldn't say other than that he is certain he will find some employment from April. "I'm sure some franchise will sign me up," he said.
  • Before that he has another job to do with the ball here. "Smithy likes to use a few pie-chuckers like myself," he said. "I will definitely put my hand up to do a job."

On Wednesday morning, Elgar would not have known what to think. Graeme Smith appeared worn down by the timing of the contracts announcement, called it a "curveball" and said if a player had been left off it and got the opportunity to play, they should use it to prove they are worthy. By the afternoon, Elgar would have known he was playing and may have thought the captain's words were an instruction to him to show defiance.

But it was only much later in the day that Elgar would have been sure not only that he would be in the XI but that he would be batting in his preferred position at the top of the order. He would also have known that the only other time he has played against Australia in a Test, his debut, he recorded a pair and that just last week he dropped David Warner when he came on as a substitute fielder in Centurion. It was a chance he should have taken. So was this one, which is why it was so important that he did not fumble.

Even if Elgar's confidence was at its highest, he would still have been nervous given that he was tasked with the most difficult job of the day: to see off the man who decimated the top order at SuperSport Park. Elgar may not have thought it would be that tricky when the first delivery Johnson served up was off target and went down leg.

From the next one, he would have been sure what he was up against. It was full and straight and although not very quick at 137 kph, Elgar instinctively tried to flick it away on the leg side and hit it to short leg. The traps were all set and Elgar would have known the only way to win the battle was to stay patient.

For the next three-quarters of an hour, Elgar showed what it takes to see off Johnson and proved he has the temperament to play Test cricket. He fronted up the way a Test opener should, got behind the line of Johnson's deliveries and defended with the determination of a man whose livelihood was on the line.

The St George's Park surface did not offer Johnson as much in terms of bounce and carry but he was still quick, his bouncer was still fearsome and his fuller delivery threatened to sneak through Elgar's stronghold at any moment. Elgar didn't let it. He kept out the ones that looked like they would break his toes, left anything wide outside off and slowly trusted himself to start moving forward to deliveries instead of hanging back in his crease.

After five overs, which included Smith's dismissal, he had a ball trickle away off his hip for a leg bye. After two more deliveries, he saw Hashim Amla pinned on the pads by one that, on first glance, looked like it had pitched outside leg. Amla was given out and went to consult Elgar about reviewing. Given the stature of the man at the other end, there might have been pressure on Elgar to encourage Amla to seek a second opinion, but he stuck to his guns. Elgar told Amla he thought it was out. He was right.

Dean Elgar raises his bat on reaching 50, South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Port Elizabeth, 1st day, February 20, 2014
Dean Elgar's composure showed how the Australia attack - Mitchell Johnson included - could be dealt with © Getty Images

All this happened before he had scored a run. South Africa were two down with only 11 on the board. None of those runs belonged to the two men at the crease. Things could have unravelled very quickly but Elgar ensured they did not.

Du Plessis tried a few things, Elgar did not. He just presented his best impression of an impenetrable wall and left it there. When du Plessis got a short ball, despite the square leg in place, he pulled. When Elgar did, he either left it or ducked. When du Plessis got a half volley from Peter Siddle on the pads, he put it away. When Elgar got a similar length from Nathan Lyon, he defended.

And then, after 11-and-a-half overs that seemed like a lifetime, Elgar brought out his slog-sweep. He sent Lyon over midwicket in a moment of aggression that took everyone by surprise but announced Elgar's arrival. Then he disappeared back into his concentration zone and kept going.

His concentration was impeccable despite the chirping from the Australians, which may have been about his employment status, and the one he wore on the shoulder from Johnson, which raced to him at 145kph and thundered into him as he realised he was in a bad position to do anything other than get hit. He did as AB de Villiers said and did not show any fear.

He valued his wicket enough not to make any mistakes and with his caution came confidence. Elgar is a classy player with a range of elegant shots that he brought out as the afternoon went on. He played a little more away from his body to drive through the covers, pushed another one wide of mid-off, beat the cover fielder later on and tucked one off his hips to square leg.

Although his half-century came up with an edge past the slips, other than that, he looked a man in control of what he was doing. He placed the ball where he wanted it to go, he threaded the fielders, he was on his way to a hundred and he should have got there.

And then all that hard work disappeared when he decided to hit Lyon over midwicket and skied it. His magic number is 83 now. On Friday morning, Elgar will still not have a national contract but he has given those who issue the documents a reason to wonder whether they made a mistake.

'Patience game key in PE' - Elgar

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by JimmySA on (February 21, 2014, 10:50 GMT)

@milepost Thanks for not blaming the pitch and having faith in your team. Nice prediction, almost came true ;)

Posted by milepost on (February 21, 2014, 7:38 GMT)

SA won't make 300, they won't still be batting at lunch. 3-0 to the Aussies is the only way this can go.

Posted by curator2askCaptain on (February 21, 2014, 7:24 GMT)

to me watching this match is as if watching AUS vs SA test match being played in India.... Can't stop laughing at all those cricket commentators and key-board worriers talking negative about India preparing pitches not to suit opposition...:-)

time for reality-check guys....cheers

Posted by curator2askCaptain on (February 21, 2014, 5:51 GMT)

Well talking about this technique or lack of it was discussed enough by TV commentators.... good technique only when the ball is pitched up and close to his seems not many people are watching the game on TV...

Posted by   on (February 21, 2014, 4:44 GMT)

Good to see, young batsman are coming and performing for their respective countries. In past four five years there is sharp decline in quality of batters and batsman-ship. If you look at past two decades each team had 3-4 excellent batsman. But post retirement of big guns SRT, BCL,RP,RD,JK etc. batting resource looks depleted across.

Posted by Le_Jeu on (February 21, 2014, 4:38 GMT)

As one who has no idea of what goes on in S African domestic cricket, I never understood the selectors going back to Elgar again and again, especially after I saw his pair on debut. His only contribution I saw before this innings was getting Misbah caught at slip in the UAE. But hot stuff now, what?

Posted by dinosaurus on (February 21, 2014, 3:05 GMT)

"I am wondering why some batsmen threw their wickets to a ordinary Lyon."

This seems to be the street view of Lyon, particularly from the subcontinent. Sometimes I think it is good to compare like with like. Yes, spinners from the subcontinent are more successful than others but that should be tempered by the realisation that spinners do most of the bowling and take most of the wickets under "subcontinental" conditions. What would be interesting to consider would be a comparison of spinners operating under conditions not so favourable to spinners. Warne took most of his wickets outside of the subcontinent. I don't think any spinner from the subcontinent has done that. But it's not the extreme cases I would be interested in. Is Lyon in fact a journeyman spinner? How does his record *outside* the subcontinent compare with the subcontinent elite (also *outside* the subcontinent)? Equally interesting would be an analysis of pace bowlers (but now confined to subcontinent conditions).

Posted by dunger.bob on (February 21, 2014, 0:34 GMT)

It was a good, gutsy grind from Elgar. Just what the doctor ordered for SA. This game is starting to shape up as a proper Test match. SA got their heads down and batted with some determination while the Aussies were made to slog it out, which they did. .. Good stuff from nearly everyone.

Posted by Robster1 on (February 20, 2014, 23:27 GMT)

Elgar could be the grinder that SA now need, although Miller, de Kock, Van Zyl and Roussouw are also knocking on the door. And goodness knows why Kleinveldt got another national contract.

Posted by Dazzybird on (February 20, 2014, 22:35 GMT)

Elgar = Braveheart. SA should get 380-ish and then Dale Steyn & Co can put the Aussies under pressure. They may handle it and then again they may not - all up it should be a real good test. I like the balance of the team now. JP needs to take wickets AND score runs otherwise he needs to be repaved.

Posted by legfinedeep on (February 20, 2014, 21:43 GMT)

I thought he showed excellent temperament. I was watching the game on various sites online, and people were talking at how he must have been quaking in his boots at the site of MJ hurtling down at him. But he demonstrated lots of patience, grit and determination - which is more than many of the senior players (besides ABD) have shown this series.

Posted by CricFanKrish on (February 20, 2014, 21:34 GMT)

The next Jacques Kallis? Maybe, maybe not. Yet, he has stood up and made his chance count. While Australia still have their noses ahead, South Africa look in a much better position than they ever did at Centurion. I am still curious to see how long Mitch can carry on in his current form. All good things must and will come to an end. I would then like to see who can bend their backs for Australia. Harris and Siddle are good, but will they be able to run through a good side like Mitch has done recently? Only time will tell.

Coming back to Elgar, well played mate. Just keep the concentration and patience. You will be destined for bigger things, maybe even an IPL Franchise contract by next year!

Posted by Beertjie on (February 20, 2014, 20:00 GMT)

Now if, like Steve Smith, he could snare a wicket or two (as he did when getting Misbah) SAF won't miss Robbie P at all.

Posted by Kirstenfan on (February 20, 2014, 19:47 GMT)

Well done Elgar, show CSA how stupid they are

Posted by Alexk400 on (February 20, 2014, 19:43 GMT)

Rory Kleinveldt is useless and he gets contract. Clueless people running South africa

Posted by mazdonal on (February 20, 2014, 19:07 GMT)

If Billy Cooper (I call him silly Cooper) had been at St. George's he would greeted Elgar with a "Pomp and Circumstance" rendition. He would certainly have deserved it. Speaking of background music the band kept on playing mindlessly and at some quite inopportune moments. Their quality was on a par with an Indian wedding procesion band. Furthermore, there are times to play the national anthem and times to refrain. They still had to learn that. What a continual racket.

Posted by TheCricketeer on (February 20, 2014, 18:40 GMT)

Forget about today. In the last two years Elgar spent as much time away from home as every other player in the squad. He has had to deal with all the travelling, all the hotels, all the nets and whats worse he has probably been the team gaffer during matches. He got the odd opportunity here and there but he earned the spot of reserve batsman fair and square and until he gets an extended opportunity in the side it should not be taken away from him. And even if he was to be just the reserve batsman for the next year he will still be a travelling memeber of the test squad and how someone in that position cannot be given a central contract is beyond me. More CSA nonsense is the only way to describe that decision.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2014, 18:26 GMT)

South Africa are going to miss a spinner here. I am wondering why some batsmen threw their wickets to a ordinary Lyon. I doubt against India even a single wicket was thrown by SA. Against India, they took couple of blinders and in the last test match, SA dropped couple of lollies.. May be this is what is called LUCK!

Posted by Chris_P on (February 20, 2014, 18:09 GMT)

Good to see him bounce back. He is a better player than his test debut showed, & although he is from the opposition, it really galled me when people were writing him off so easily. No player who earns his stripes to play for his country is a poor player.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (February 20, 2014, 17:42 GMT)

I don't really understand the national contacts these days. How does Kleinveldt have a national contract? Has he ever delivered? Is he better than Hendricks or Abbott?

I guess they get paid for each game they play so Elgar should just do what Miller and De Kock did last year when they didn't have contracts, make himself useful to the team as he did today.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2014, 17:14 GMT)

Elgar proved his worth today. I really hope that he is brought back, just as Albie was. We need cricketers like him. And let us not do what the ECB did to Kevin Pietersen.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2014, 17:06 GMT)

This guy has earned the respect from a lot of people. He certainly deserves more opportunities in the team from here on.

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