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Dean Elgar - A Protea pillar in the making

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Dean_Elgar_South_Africa_cricketDean Elgar’s return to West Australian shores carried with it some dreadful memories of the past. Four years back, Mitchell Johnson was too hot to handle for the debutant, who returned from Perth having faced 16 balls with not a run to his name.

But this time, on the 3rd day of the 1st Test, Elgar had a sweet redemption with a trademark innings. The character of Dean Elgar was more on display than his industrious strokes. Ball by ball, minute by minute, he dug inch by inch into the Aussie wounds with his assiduous knock. He was compact in defence and resolute in his approach. He mustered his runs one by one with controlled aggression.

JP Duminy, with a sublime innings of the highest quality at the other end, seems to have taken some shine out of Elgar’s achievement, but Elgar’s knock is in no way of any less value than that of his fellow centurion.

The man who came in for Graeme Smith at the top batted much like the big hearted former Proteas skipper. In his illustrious career, Smith has scripted many such fighting knocks, defying odds and overcoming technical limitations. He had made it a practice to take down the opposition’s attack little by little, like a leech would slowly suck blood out of the human body, drop by drop. It didn’t hurt immediately, but it left a wound big enough to smart once it was done with its job.

 

At Perth, Elgar did just what his former skipper had done to many opposition attacks over the years: tiring their legs first and their minds later. It now seems safe to say that South Africa has found a fitting replacement for Graeme Smith at the top, one who bats in a more or less similar fashion, and can be rightfully called Smith’s apostle, in terms of his approach towards batting.

“India didn't do us a lot of confidence but it did me the world of good. Sometimes your comfort zone needs to get broken a bit," Elgar had said after the 2015 tour of India which had turned out to be a big embarrassment for the then World No. 1 team, emphasizing the need to fight within oneself.

Elgar seems to have done it by overcoming his loss in form and gaining confidence with some impressive performances in the home series against England that followed the Indian tour. He even carried his bat to score an unbeaten 118 in the 1st Test at Durban under trying conditions, and has now followed it up with a match-winning contribution at Perth.

In his 31 innings as opener, Elgar has partnered Graeme Smith, Alviro Peterson, Stiaan Van Zyl and Temba Bavuma previously. He is now joined by Stephen Cook. South Africa’s quest for a settled opening combination is still on, and with Cook’s double failure at Perth, it is likely to widen its net.

But with Elgar finding form and repaying with interest the faith invested in him, South Africa seems to have found an opener on whom they can bank for a long time to come. For Russel Domingo and Faf du Plessis, Elgar’s runs are a big boost.

On Saturday, it didn’t matter how he scored as long as he stood tall and strong, as long as he thwarted Hazlewood’s rhythm and nullified Starc’s pace. After the loss of Amla at 45/2, all that was needed was some substance and Elgar produced that with his steely knock.

He pumped his fist, thudded his chest with clenched fist and raised his bat. He could then afford a smile.

During his first Test match, he was done in because he knew little about international cricket. Now, he was standing at the centre of what many regard as a batsman’s graveyard, with a sense of immense satisfaction, after having played a very big role in one of South Africa’s greatest Test comebacks.

Dean Elgar is certainly a Protea pillar in the making.

 

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