TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IF Dean Elgar didn’t know there was more interest in Mitchell Starc’s return in the test series between Australia and SA next month than his own comeback, he does now.
What, Elgar was asked at a press conference in Adelaide on Thursday, was the reason for the strapping he wore around his ankle?
“I rolled my ankle the day before the second test against New Zealand back home; this is a precaution,” Elgar said.
The SA opening batsman might have been miffed about the ignorance of the usually well-informed Australian press.
Or he might have been quietly relieved that they didn’t seem to know he had, of all things, hurt himself when he stepped onto the boundary rope at Centurion on August 26, which ruled him out for a month.
So, came the inevitable question, what did he think of Starc?
“Starc’s stats speak for themselves, he is a massive asset for the Australian side,” Elgar said. “I have never faced Starc so for me its a totally new encounter but a very exciting one.
“He seems a serious competitor, a guy I respect a lot.”
Starc and Josh Hazlewood were rested for Australia’s one-day series in SA earlier this month, which led some to doubt whether SA’s 5-0 win should be recognised as an unmitigated triumph.
It should, because the absence of AB de Villiers – who missed the ODIs with an elbow injury – from SA’s ranks surely outweighs the loss of a couple of comparatively middling players like Starc and Hazlewood.
De Villiers is also out for the test series, although he harbours hopes of playing in the third test in Adelaide on November 24.
But Starc looks likely to be back, and that’s despite needing around 30 stitches to close a gash in his shin he sustained during a fielding drill in September.
Starc is confident he will confirm his fitness for the first test, at the WACA on November 3, in New South Wales’ Sheffield Shield match against Queensland at the Gabba, which starts on Tuesday.
“I’m hopefully on that plane on Monday to Brisbane and get some good bowling in and get back playing and ready to go for the first test,” Starc told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
Australians tend to talk up Starc as the new version of another left-arm fast bowler named Mitchell.
The now retired Mitchell Johnson unnerved many who faced him and took 64 wickets in his 12 tests against SA.
Two of those scalps belonged to Elgar in the Perth test of November 2012.
The match was Starc’s only test against SA, but he didn’t get the chance to bowl to Elgar – who was on debut.
Instead Johnson bowled all 16 deliveries faced in the match by Elgar, who made ducks in both innings.
Perhaps Elgar should be more concerned with dealing with Nathan Lyon, considering Johnson is the only bowler who is not an off-spinner who has dismissed him more than once in tests.
“Nathan Lyon is a good spinner,” Elgar said. “I faced him a few times, more so in SA, so it might be a little bit different in Australian conditions.
“But I know he has been a seasoned campaigner for them year in and year out.”
Or maybe Elgar shouldn’t be too fussed about an off-spinner of Lyon’s ability.
He has fallen to him just once in three tests and averages 83.00 against his bowling.