Elgar wary of touchy-feely Aussies
It’s a long way from the dressingroom stairs at Kingsmead to the Golf Course End at the Wanderers.
South Africa’s Test series against Australia has made that entire trip and taken a detour or two along the way — into the stands at St George’s Park and Newlands‚ and to a hardware store to buy some sandpaper.
And now it’s in a place that doesn’t sit entirely comfortably with Dean Elgar.
“It’s odd‚” he said from behind a squirmy smile on Monday.
“I’ve played quite a few Tests against Australia and it’s definitely been the most docile Test since I have played against them.”
He seemed a touch relieved when he said‚ “I don’t think its going to last very long.”
Matches between these two teams have tended to be fuelled by nastiness‚ which spiked during the first three Tests of the current series.
David Warner had to be restrained by his teammates from physically confronting Quinton de Kock in Durban.
Instead‚ he swore at him all the way up the stairs to the dressingroom.
And that after Warner had spent an hour and more spewing abuse on the field.
In Port Elizabeth and Cape Town spectators insulted Warner’s wife in crude and misogynist fashion in wrongheaded attempts to taunt her husband.
Also at Newlands‚ Australia’s plot to tamper with the ball by roughening it with sandpaper was exposed and Steve Smith‚ Warner and Cameron Bancroft were banned by Cricket Australia and sent home in disgrace.
But at the Wanderers the Aussies‚ just a few days ago cricket’s ugliest team‚ have been out-New Zealanding the New Zealanders‚ officially cricket’s nicest team.
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine‚ Smith’s replacement as Australia’s captain‚ offered Temba Bavuma a friendly hug around the thighs — a gentle rugby tackle‚ perhaps — after the ball nestled between the flap of one of Bavuma’s pads and his leg as he batted at the Golf Course End during South Africa’s first innings on Saturday.
Matters reached marshmallow melting point on Monday when Joe Burns‚ one of the replacements flown over from Australia at short notice after the visitors’ nadir at Newlands‚ chased after Aiden Markram at the Golf Course End.
Burns did so not with Warner’s intentions but to make urgent enquiries about the state of Markram’s shin after drilling him with a sweep shot as he fielded at short leg.
“As a group we’ve said all the way through the Test that we want to put in a performance that we’re really proud of‚ that the people back home are proud of‚ that is fitting of the Australian cricket team.”
On the fairplay scorecard‚ they’ve done exactly that.
But‚ on the scoreboard‚ they need a mountain of 524 runs to win and level the series on its last day‚ and they have already lost three wickets in that cause.
South Africa are dominant not least because Elgar and Faf du Plessis batted for almost four hours in their stand of 170.
Elgar’s toughness was to the fore again.
He had only 35 scoring shots and all of 215 dot balls in his 81‚ which took him more than six of the seven-and-a-half hours South Africa were at the crease.
Du Plessis hung even tougher. He was hit twice on the finger he broke in February and once on the helmet for his 120‚ his first Test century in 14 innings.
“Nice guys come second‚” Elgar said‚ and then seemed to indicate that the Australian bowlers’ masks of friendliness slipped a little as an innings of 105 overs wore on.
“You’ve got to have an element of proper fight‚ and sooner or later if your bowlers are clocking massive [numbers of] overs and biting their tongue‚ they will unleash something.
“There are a lot of frustrations over the course of five days. It’s only human nature for guys to talk to each other.
“But that’s fine as long as it’s not personal and it has a competitive edge; I’m OK with that.”
With touchy-feely Aussies‚ not so much.