PIETERMARITZBURG – They say that batsmen reach their full potential at 30 – when all the mechanics make sense, the exuberance of youth is tempered by experience, and the hunger for runs is re-emphasised by the knowledge that the end is nearer than the beginning.
Dean Elgar turned 30 in June, and he is piling up sufficient evidence to back up the “best after 30” theory.
On Tuesday, in little Maritzburg, Elgar helped himself to 237 not out for the Titans, as he led them to 500/6 declared against the Dolphins.
His latest gem is on the back of five international tons this year, and is his fourth hundred in as many matches this season.
He plundered just as richly for Somerset on the county circuit, and he shows little sign of relenting this summer.
Tuesday’s knock was observed by the convenor of the national selectors, Linda Zondi, who has sat back and watched Elgar unfurl plenty of highlights over the past year.
He was a cut above, and he demoralised the Dolphins with his remorseless run garnering. Nearly nine hours he was at the crease and, remarkably, he seemed to be getting stronger towards the end.
The most impressive attribute of the left-hander’s game is that bats at his own pace. He was quite content to let Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen – who scored a fluent 111 – rattle along at a nippier rate for periods, because he is now comfortable with scoring his runs in pockets of domination.
In the quiet periods, he is happy to bunt, to blunt and to repel to the best of his considerable abilities.
And then, as bowlers get bored or weary, he pounces, with a laser-like drive or pull shot, and he is only too happy to deposit slow bowlers back over their heads if they dare give him too much air.
On Tuesday, as he grew bolder well past three figures, Elgar played and missed at a Mthokozisi Shezi offering.
His response was swift and savage, spanking the left-armer for four and then six, just to clarify who held sway in the middle. It was just one of countless, personal mini-battles that Elgar won.
How the Dolphins must rue giving him a life when he was just on 26 on the opening morning.
He resumed with Klaasen, and the wicket-keeper/batsman repeated the dose he administered on the Dolphins last season in Maritzburg as he again breached three figures.
Klaasen batted like a man with a declaration to make, and fell on his sword, while Elgar drove the nail in with impunity as they added a demoralising 239 runs.
As the afternoon wore on, the latter started extending his repertoire – reverse sweeps, chips over the inner ring and even the odd agricultural swat.
Eventually the Titans declared on 500, and Elgar’s hand was sought after to be shook by every man on the fielding side.
It was a knock that had demonstrated what it takes to be at the next level, and the respect was well earned.
In reply, the Dolphins lost Sarel Erwee just after tea, as a lively Cordin Bosch got him to tickle one behind to Klaasen.
Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Senuran Muthusamy then dug in, repelling Bosch, and then the spin twins that are Tabraiz Shamsi and Shaun von Berg.
That is where the main threat lies over the next two days, on a pitch that is already starting to show variable bounce.
At 48/1, the hosts are still 452 runs in arrears, and the follow-on safety zone 303 runs away.
Titans 500/6 declared (Dean Elgar 237 not out, Heinrich Klaasen 111; Khaya Zondo 2/52, Senuran Muthusamy 2/65)
Dolphins 48/1 (Senuran Muthusamy 16 not out; Cordin Bosch 1/9)