Music for injured Dean Elgar's ears as SA face tall order
Did Cameron Bancroft think Australia might declare before play resumed on Sunday considering they were already 402 runs ahead at a ground where no team have successfully chased 350 to win a Test?
That’s settles it‚ then. Australia will look to compound South Africa’s misery in the first test at Kingsmead.
When bad light hastened the close on Saturday the visitors were 213/9 in their second innings.
There shouldn’t‚ then‚ be much for South Africa to do before they start chipping away at the large hill — it’s not yet a mountain — of runs in front of them.
That’s if they want to get out their picks and shovels early on.
Should they decide the match is no longer winnable and that time is more valuable than runs it would be in their best interests to keep the Aussies’ last pair in the middle as long as possible.
Either way‚ Dean Elgar will be central to South Africa’s cause.
On Saturday he added the wicket of Steve Smith‚ the world’s top ranked batsman‚ to a list of scalps that includes Cheteshwar Pujara‚ Shikhar Dhawan‚ Ajinkya Rahane‚ Nick Compton‚ Alex Hales and Misbah-ul-Haq.
It will no doubt gall Smith that he is the only player to be twice dismissed by Elgar’s magical slow left-arm filth‚ this time lbw after failing to connect with a sweep.
Doubtless Elgar will be less toothy if he is called on to prolong Australia’s innings.
And when the last wicket is taken Elgar’s job‚ as South Africa’s senior opening batsman‚ will be to stay at the crease for as long as his bad mood — and his mood is always bad‚ more filthy than his bowling — allows.
Not so fast. There’s a catch.
Twenty-four balls before play was called off on Saturday‚ Mitchell Starc drilled a fullish Morne Morkel effort into the covers at head height.
And there Elgar was. He flung his defiant body upward. He shoved his arms in the air like he just didn’t care. He held a screamer of a catch.
Then he ran off holding a forearm horizontally across his chest.
Sensitive readers might want to look away now.
“[Elgar] dislocated his right pinky finger while taking the catch‚” South Africa team management said. “It has been put in place and he will be able to bat.”
Or‚ as assistant coach Malibongwe Maketa said‚ “Dean is a tough cookie. He was really keen to go back out there and to bat. There’s no concern about him.”
Indeed‚ the Australians might have done themselves a disservice by making Elgar more determined than even he is ordinarily.
But it won’t be easy‚ as Australian opener Bancroft‚ who scored 53 — 40 of them in boundaries — on Saturday morning when the pitch was at its best for batting‚ explained.
“In the five overs before I got out [reverse swing] was starting to go quite big‚ and I know for any new batsmen that’s very difficult‚” Bancroft said.
“The pitch has slowly deteriorated as the day went on. There’s been a lot more bare patches starting to show up and the ball’s reverse swinging earlier and earlier because of that abrasiveness.
“I imagine it will get more difficult to bat.”
That’s music to Elgar’s ears.