TELFORD VICE at University Oval
DEAN Elgar, violence in his eyes, bat arched like a scorpion’s sting, lurched down the pitch on the fourth day of the first test between New Zealand and South Africa on Saturday.
Mitchell Santner saw him coming and speared his delivery wide down the off side, closer to the edge of the mowed strip than the stumps.
Someone who had not been at the crease for more than 12 hours of a match played on a mean-spirited pitch and in brutal cold might have been made to look stupid. Someone blessed with all the usual strokes might have suffered the same fate.
Elgar, who has little time for pomp but plenty of regard for circumstance, scored 140 in the first innings and was, at that stage, 75 not out. He was the man for this job.
He reached further to his left than he had a right to and ripped the ball through many degrees towards midwicket. It hit the turf running and beat Kane Williamson’s despairing tumble to cross the boundary.
New Zealand’s captain, a batsman of pomp and circumstance who is indeed blessed with all the usual strokes, sat there smiling the smile of a roughly awakened hamster as he wondered, with appropriate hand gestures, how the bloody hell Elgar had done that.
Within the hour Elgar was probably thinking the same thing – this time after heaving a straightening delivery from off-spinner Jeetan Patel down Williamson’s throat at long-off.
As he walked towards the warmth of the dressingroom he removed his helmet to reveal a face cold with fury, and did not raise his bat to acknowledge the applause he had earned for veering within 11 runs of becoming the sixth South African to score centuries in both innings of a test.
Elgar thus avoided becoming perhaps the only player in history to attend four press conferences in seven days.
The first was on Monday, followed on Wednesday by his star turn after his century. He was the odds on favourite again on Saturday, and at stumps he remained the front runner to have been named man-of-the-match.
“You again,” a reporter asked in jest when Elgar appeared before the press pack on Wednesday.
“Don’t want to make a habit of this,” he wisecracked through a grin.
Instead of Elgar, batting coach Neil McKenzie was sent to make sense of it all on Saturday: “It’s been tough and that’s why Dean enjoys it.
“He’s a gutsy, gritty type of cricketer.
“He has to work hard for his runs.
“He knows test cricket is not about easy, fluent runs.”
It’s not. Instead, it’s about voluptuous violence and fabulous fury, and valuing circumstance over pomp.