WATCH - De Villiers and Elgar blunt India
AB de Villiers and Dean Elgar put on 141 for the third wicket in Centurion, rescuing their team from 3 for 2
South Africa would take special satisfaction out of a series win against India, especially if it came at SuperSport Park, because of their recent history against them. South Africa lost 3-0 in India at the end of 2015, to end a nine-year unbeaten run on the road and lose their No. 1 ranking, and were particularly stung by the conditions they were presented with.
All three matches (Bengaluru was rained out) were played on turning tracks; as a revenge of sorts, South Africa were gearing up to prepare spicy pitches. While Newlands seamed and bounced, SuperSport Park has not lived up to its billing but with South Africa close to victory, they already seem to be planning the celebrations.
"It will be very satisfying. I think what happened in India, we left with a lot of scars. Us giving them that kind of treatment and beating them here in South Africa is definitely going to be satisfying for us," Dean Elgar said.
Elgar played in all four matches and was one of only three South Africans to rack up more than 100 runs in the series. That's not saying much and Elgar was as hurt as the rest by the poor performances. He was also involved in a verbal battle with R Ashwin, who memorably told him "This is not Johannesburg," on one occasion. In this series, Elgar and Virat Kohli have had some words: Kohli has been picked up on the stump mic having a lot to say to Elgar, both in Cape Town and at Centurion.
While Elgar would not go into the details, he is "pretty sure," some of the conversation here is left over from 2015 and, although it may sound nasty, he enjoys every syllable of it.
"It's a competition between players who are feisty and want to win. You are going to try and do anything to win for your side when you come up against tough opposition, and we definitely have now. Virat is very competitive and I'm also like that," Elgar said "I think he wants the best for his team like anyone. I'm not going to delve into what happened in Cape Town, but it's something that really gets me going, when someone is in my ear and trying to put me down. It's a nice motivating factor to keep me going."
"Test cricket is 70% mental and 30% what you can do on the park"
It motivated Elgar to 61 second-innings runs, the second-highest South African run-scorer. Elgar held firm when South Africa were 3 for 2 and then sunk an anchor so AB de Villiers could get going at the other end. He described these runs as tough runs, but typical of his style of batting.
"Test cricket is 70% mental and 30% what you can do on the park. I was never gifted with the amount of talent but maybe I was gifted with something between the ears," he said. "It was a bit of a mental battle, especially the way Cape Town went. Fortunately my experience at this level has helped me through those kind of battles."
With Elgar's gritty half-century and AB de Villiers' potentially game-changing 80, South Africa could have a winning second-innings total, but their lack of hundreds remains a question. So far, only Kohli has raised his bat to triple-figures, but while racking up big runs was a priority for South Africa last season, this time, they just want collectively to get enough to win.
"We're all cricketers that have scored big hundreds for SA before; it's just the nature of the conditions we have been playing in," Elgar said. "Virat's knock was special, and maybe it was a little bit more conducive to Virat's style of play where it was more unfamiliar to us. Those small nitty gritty 70s, 80s, all count as well. In a close series like this, those are the knocks that are going to come in handy."
Similarly, the bowlers are not looking for anything other than a team effort to carry them to a series win and, with four quicks in their arsenal, Elgar is in no doubt that victory will come tomorrow.
"We are quite fortunate. We've got three quite tall fast bowlers that bowl 140-plus. I think that is working in our favour on a wicket that is becoming quite up and down," he said.