TELFORD VICE, Mohali
THIS was supposed to be a story about Kagiso Rabada, the tall, lithe thoroughbred fast bowler with flaring eyes and threatening presence who made his test debut for SA against India in Mohali on Thursday.
But his thunder was stolen by a shortish, stocky, self-deprecating fella from Welkom with a boxer’s nose and an artisan’s outlook who ground out an unlovely 13 not out off 59 balls.
Not that that was the sum total of Dean Elgar’s contribution to the cause.
“I’m a little bit surprised with the outcome – taking four wickets and bowling decently,” left-arm spinner Elgar said of his only test innings in which he has taken more than one wicket.
“But I’ve always had that ability to bowl. I’m not just a batsman, which probably people didn’t know. Maybe they do now.”
Maybe they do. Especially those who can’t quite work out what he’s trying to do.
“A lot of times batsmen become a bit tentative against me, which works in my favour. Fortunately the wicket had broken up quite a bit and there was already quite a bit of rough. I just tried to land the ball in a half-decent area and it worked out for me.”
Indeed, it did – largely because each of Elgar’s deliveries leaves his meaty hand powered not so much by muscles and revolutions on the ball as it is by confidence and hope.
He wouldn’t like to hear this, but he is that most romantic of cricketers: a dreamer. “Maybe,” he surely thinks as he shambles into his the crease, “he’ll get the line wrong and nick it … Or get tangled up playing around his front pad … Or even lose his balance and be stumped … Or moer it into the sky for someone to catch …
“Just maybe …”
There was no maybe about any of that on Thursday, when Elgar bowled like a bowler and not like a batsman who bowls for his analysis of 8-1-22-4.
Did he know why Hashim Amla tossed him the ball 22 overs before Imran Tahir was brought into the attack?
“No idea. I don’t question the captain with strategy. I have a reputation as a bit of a golden arm who tends to get breakthroughs, and maybe ‘Hash’ thought it’s time to burgle a wicket.”
It took the unlikely figure of India batting coach Sanjay Bangar to say something unconditionally positive about Elgar’s performance: “He was willing to toss the ball up above the batsman’s eyeline; it was good spin bowling.”
It was. But what of Rabada? He was hit for a dozen runs in his first four overs before Virat Kohli tried to work the third ball of his next over to leg and instead speared a leading edge into the covers; flat but catchable. Maybe …
India’s captain, who turned 27 on Thursday, had walked to the wicket to the strains of the crowd singing “Happy Birthday”. But that was not a happy stroke.
However, first, a catch needed to be taken; a difficult catch what with the ball diving for the fielder’s bootlaces.
Who took it?
A shortish, stocky, self-deprecating fella from Welkom with a boxer’s nose and an artisan’s outlook. And that’s no maybe.