Skipper Dean Elgar takes his team home scoring match winning 96* off 188 balls in tough conditions at Wanderers.
In the modern era of T20 cricket, quite often players come on the 22-yards with an ambition of being risky and hit more balls than leaving them alone. After leaving a few deliveries, it seems as if their nerve provides them the sole message of going hard at the next ball.
Just when the old Test cricket spectators had enough of their patience in finding a lad to clap for his ability to leave and block the balls, a 34-year-old from Welkom named Dean Elgar would walk past with a bright smile throwing some thoughtful words, “Hey, didn’t you notice me!”
A courageous player with top-class determination
“Some would call it stupid and some would call it brave,” the South African Test captain Dean Elgar was to say about his match-winning knock of 96* off 188 deliveries during the second Test against India at Wanderers in Johannesburg. Even though the innings included 10 boundaries, most of them were scored at the tail-end of the game just because his side was near the winning mark.
But what the scorecard didn’t indicate was his fighting spirit and toughness to stand before the fired up Indian pace bowling. In his 11 hours of stay, he had taken almost 40-odd blows on different parts of his body and still hadn’t shown any symptom of pain; as if he was born to absorb those.
On a single delivery, Elgar stunned the world
After many times being hit on the shoulder and the ribs, a Jasprit Bumrah delivery hit Elgar on his body and off to the grill over his helmet. In a blink of an eye, he showed some agony; he was about to fall on the ground but he didn’t; probably that was a sign that somehow blew away the Indian attack’s mindset. He required immediate on-field treatment but pretended to be absolutely fine.
They could have thousands of plans for getting him but the gutsy soul would portrait himself in the body of the opponent coach, “The Wall”, Rahul Dravid. “I think they should stop hitting me because I don’t seem to get out.”
The left-hander articulated in the post-match ceremony, “If I am wiling to put my body on the line, so should everyone else.”
This is certainly another article like fifty others about praising one bloody rigid and clunky heart; another few dozens of paragraphs about the mode in which someone showed bravery. But what else could one do except admire the spirit of a person who when hit on the ribs or thighs, displayed no emotions, just pronounced a matter-of-factly “umm” and carried on with his business. But honestly, this was more than that; this should be held at the top of the tree.
Dean Elgar’s moment in many years to come
Undoubtedly, this is the moment Dean Elgar will remember for many years to come. With ease, he sent the ball from Ravichandran Ashwin to the mid-wicket fence to gift South Africa their maiden win against India at the Bull Ring; a squeal of delight on his face with congratulations all around. And why not?
In the last three years, they had Test series victory against an under-strength Sri-Lankan and West Indian side; and some T20 World Cup match victories. But not a single one of those triumphs had the sense of high-class manner or occasion when compared to this New Year’s Test; especially after being down and out in the last Boxing Day week.
To add more spice to the recipe, the success had been gained on the back of a fragile batting line-up and under-performing bowling bunch; their special player, Quinton de Kock had taken retirement at SuperSports Park in the first Test and India were coming to their away fortress, Wanderers, with a world-class seam bowling attack.
“I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of winning a game of cricket,” The Protea captain did speak; but being unknown of the way he had pushed South Africa to new highs.
Following the paths of another mettlesome character
A South-African left-handed opener with a heavy preference for the leg-side, stands in the first slip with the leadership hat; someone who carries a crocodile skin; Dean Elgar had some shadows of the former Proteas great Graeme Smith.
The latter took one more innings than the former to score his maiden Test century. In those early days in 2014, when Elgar was selected for the away Sri Lanka series post Smith’s retirement, he notched up a high-class 103 off 187 balls. The former South African captain had an average of 87.76 in successful fourth-innings chases while Elgar averages 78.75 in the same bracket with three half-centuries. If Elgar going forward can become half of what Smith was, South African cricket will rise skyward.
An old school approach
Not so long ago, the South African side was in West Indies and winning both the Tests easily as the scorecard suggested. But in the 2nd Test at St Lucia, on that juicy pace bowling track, no batter could stand for hours, let alone scoring runs. Dean Elgar stood tall for 77.2 overs facing 237 balls for his 77; even though he didn’t manage a hundred, he ensured that the juice off the track would be extracted.
The same person notched up an excellent 160 in Pune during the 2019 Test series against India. For reaching the score, he faced 287 balls, in which there were too many plays and misses or leading edges but no breakdowns, under hot and humid conditions, boxing with dehydration, he played the two world-class spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Quite fittingly, with a six to the cow-corner to a loopy delivery, he reached one of the “most important” centuries of his career.
Ending the half-cycle at Bull Ring since 2018
Three-years back, at Johannesburg, Dean Elgar left no stone unturned in giving South Africa a whitewash over India but was eventually left with no partners at the other end. On a pitch that had excessively steep and unpredictable bounce with uncontrollable seam movement, he piled up 86* off 240 balls, copping up thousands of balls on the body; the failure of not reaching the finishing line in that particular match added an extra zing to the moment when he succeeded in this goal on January 6, 2021.
It has happened and it will again take place due to the approach of Dean Elgar’s batting that a fan both in the stadium and the drawing room will take a little nap during his batting but will never forget to wake up for clapping on the unprecedented milestones reached with a crystal clear mindset.
Afterall, Elgar bats like a Dean of the art of batting.