Dean Elgar looked distraught, lost and frustrated. He had just pushed Mehidy Hasan to point when on 99 and called his partner over for a single. The eager debutant, Aiden Markram, three runs short of a hundred, set off for a run only to see Elgar change his mind and turn back. Bangladesh had broken the 196 run stand courtesy a run-out. But Elgar wasn’t pondering over all that. He couldn’t even manage to break into a smile when he eventually reached the landmark with an edgy loft shot borne out of anger.
That he had run out Aiden Markram, the glowy-eyed debutant for 97 was all Elgar could think of. “I have never really looked at the game from a selfish perspective. I think I wanted it (the hundred) so badly for him I caught myself in no man’s land,” Markram later said. “Dean and I have come a long way and developed a good relationship. It was tough for him and a bitter pill to swallow. But I told him at tea that he really needs to kick on and that’s all that matters.”
Elgar responsible for my 2 💔💔 in this match. Aiden 99 Elgar 199. Would you believe it. Well played Elgar anchor-man #SAvBAN
— Thato (@ThatoMamathuba) September 29, 2017
Elgar did kick on. He had found his mojo and hunger back after Markram soothed him down at the tea break. But almost a day later, on 199, once again one short of a landmark, Elgar seemed jittery. He stayed away from a Mustafizur bouncer the first time. But in the second round, the steely southpaw just couldn’t hold back his pull shot. He top edged the pull and found mid-wicket to become the 12th batsman in Test cricket to fall on 199.
Players who got out for 199:
D Elgar ( Today )
— Broken Cricket (@BrokenCricket) September 29, 2017
He looked even more distraught now. This was supposed to be a dedication knock to Aiden Markram. Instead, he had messed it up yet again at the footsteps of another landmark. Elgar is not one to give up easily. He is in the Graeme Smith mould, resolute, unyielding and determined. When the beloved former skipper left South Africa a few years earlier than anticipated, South Africa had no qualms in turning to Dean Elgar. With him, you know what you would get. There is no X-factor, no unpredictability. You almost know the kind of shot Elgar would play even before the ball has landed. But try to get him off the field and Elgar brings out the fighting beast within him.
At Potchefstroom, the valiant southpaw, underrated and unvalued in this South African team who worships superstars, put his head down and cracked one of the finest Test innings. That the opposition had a little bite in their attack does not take any credit away from Elgar’s outstanding knock. Somebody had to show South Africa meant business at the start of a busy summer, and Elgar just put his hand up and did what he does best.
Nobody has more runs in Test cricket this year than Elgar. Nobody has as many hundreds as Elgar this year. The Titans warrior has been a monster at the top of the order for South Africa. While their search for a stable opening partner to Elgar remained unfulfilled all through the year until a public outcry eventually forced them to turn to Aiden Markram, Elgar was compiling runs unruffled and unperturbed.
He has 966 runs in 10 Tests this year at an average of 53.66 including four hundreds. The supposed benchmark guys, Cheteshwar Pujara, Steven Smith have three each and Joe Root has two. He has hundreds in every series South Africa have played this year. He has been a stable ally to Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis in the absence of AB de Villiers.
This is the start of South Africa’s big summer. They are scheduled to play India and Australia in the forthcoming months and Elgar will be crucial to South Africa’s chances.
The old fashioned ‘fight till you die’ batsmen are virtually absent in modern day Test cricket but Elgar is a good old glass of wine. There is none of the gloss or fancy packaging, but gulp it in and you know you have had the best. The left-hander is not someone modern cricket fans would love to watch. He is sluggish, slow and defensive. You wouldn’t get to see the fancy flicks, cheeky reverse sweeps or audacious lofted shots with Elgar. But what you do get is runs and plenty of them. Despite falling agonisingly short of a double hundred, Elgar’s form augers well for South Africa’s big summer.