TELFORD VICE at University Oval
WHAT to do if you’re marooned at the non-striker’s end of a challenging pitch with the scoreboard reading 22/3? If you’re Dean Elgar, that’s a stupid question.
“Whether you’re 100 for nought or 22/3, I’m always going to approach the game the same,” Elgar said on Wednesday after scoring an undefeated 128 to drag South Africa from that dreaded 22/3 to 229/4 at stumps on the opening day of their test series against New Zealand in Dunedin.
“It was one of those situations where you needed to scrap it out and not think about yourself.
“You’ve got to think about the bigger picture, and that’s the team and what the team need at that moment.
“It’s always a scrap out there.
“I’m not very talented and free-scoring like other guys are.
“You’ve got to use your advantages and that’s my ability to guts it out.”
In other words, in Elgar’s head it’s always 22/3.
The other edge of that sword is that failure is not an option, even when it looms.
Like it did with Elgar on 36, when wicketkeeper BJ Watling, tumbling down the leg side, dropped the inside edge Elgar had offered off Trent Boult.
“That ball should have gone for four,” Elgar said with a defiant gleam in his eye.
“I nicked it and BJ dropped it: happy days.
“I’m sitting with a smile on my face at the end of day one, and that’s part of cricket.
“One day it goes your way, one day it doesn’t.”
Asked about his “battle” with New Zealand’s Pretoria-born fast bowler, Neil Wagner, who tussled with Elgar at lower levels when they both lived in South Africa, the opening batsman said: “I had many battles out there.
“I don’t play the name anymore; I play the ball.
“Just like he’s allowed to bowl the ball, I’m allowed to hit it.”
But Elgar knew he had passed a searching examination of his technique and character: “It was right up there with one of the tougher days of test cricket so far in my career.
“There’s a lot of elements which we’re not used to, playing here.
“It was chilly throughout the day. If you’re not used to that your body reacts differently to those conditions – I started cramping towards the end.
“Mentally you do get drained and blown, but that’s the nature of the game.
“If you spend that long out there that’s going to happen, irrespective of where you play.”
Faf du Plessis helped Elgar dig South Africa out of trouble in a stand of 122, and when play resumes on Thursday Temba Bavuma and Elgar will resume their partnership at 81.
Bavuma, whose top score in his previous seven innings was 21, is 38 not out.
“He looks the best I’ve seen him possibly in his career so far,” Elgar said about his partner.
“This game brings pressure. You can either use it to your advantage or you can fade away.
“His character is of someone who is going to take the pressure and use it to his advantage.
“That’s the characters that we want in the side.
“He’s just got to bide his time and keep on doing what he did.”
And, perhaps, imagine that South Africa are still 22/3.