TELFORD VICE, Perth
WHATEVER else they do, wherever else they go for the rest of their lives Dean Elgar and JP Duminy will never forget the WACA. And the WACA will never forget them.
It was here in December 2008 that Duminy replaced Ashwell Prince, who had broken a thumb, to make his debut.
Four years later at the WACA Elgar earned his first cap when he came in for Duminy, who had snapped his Achilles at the Gabba.
Here on Saturday Elgar scored 127 and Duminy made 141, and they shared a stand of 250 that powered South Africa to a lead of 388 going into the fourth day of the third test.
Also on Saturday, Prince, who is in Perth as a television commentator, recalled how he had talked Duminy down from the ledge of retirement after he was dropped for the Newlands test against England in January.
“He was at a real low point and he was being honest in relating his feelings,” Prince, who was still a selector in January and was thus tasked with informing Duminy of his axing, said.
“I’m sure when he thinks back to that conversation he will be happy he carried on.”
Remembering that dark day Duminy said, “I wasn’t sure where I was going in terms of my career but I’m grateful to get another opportunity.
“I always knew to try to make a mark in test cricket again I needed to put in a big performance.”
That Duminy duly did to end a run of 16 completed innings, stretching back to the tour to Sri Lanka in July 2014, without a century.
Elgar, who missed the second test against New Zealand in August with an ankle injury, had been dismissed without reaching three figures in eight trips to the crease.
The comeback kids got together more than an hour before stumps on Friday and were not separated until what became the last ball before tea on Saturday.
Their partnership was not pretty, except when Duminy put five of the first 10 balls he faced after lunch through the off side for four with strokes that belonged in a jeweller’s display window.
But looks didn’t matter nearly as much as keeping the Australians under South Africa’s heel – particularly as Dale Steyn will watch the home side’s second innings from the dressingroom having fractured his shoulder on Friday.
“We don’t have Dale Steyn in the fourth innings so we’re going to have to graft hard to get 10 wickets,” Duminy said.
Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada are South Africa’s remaining seamers and they will need significant support from debutant left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.
Elgar and Duminy are likely to have to send down a chunk of overs of their part-time spin.
“It’s certainly going to help us,” Australian captain Steve Smith said about Steyn’s absence. “If we can keep them out there for long enough and tire their two fast bowlers out and be more positive against their spin there’s no reason why we can’t chase down a total on that pitch.
“It’s still a pretty good wicket and it’s a lightning outfield.”
Ain’t that the truth. In 2008 South Africa hunted and gathered 414/4 with Duminy hitting the winning runs and reaching 50 with the same stroke.
In 2012 Australia totalled 322 in the fourth innings – and were beaten by 309 runs.
Elgar bagged a pair then, a ghost he has banished emphatically. Duminy, too, has moved on.
Not that they will want to forget the blood, sweat, tears and joy they have left in this famous place. And not that the WACA would let them.