Johannesburg - Character, resilience and growth, were the most popular words amongst South Africa’s players following their 198-run win against New Zealand in Christchurch on Tuesday morning.
In the wake of the outcome, Proteas captain, Dean Elgar said he would have taken a 1-1 series result, if offered it before the series. “We didn’t start very well. We didn’t pitch up in the first game. To bounce back the way we did showed a lot of growth, character and maturity. To get the win the way we did was brilliant,” Elgar remarked.
The Proteas win represented one of biggest turnarounds in a series; from losing the first Test by an innings and 276 runs in seven sessions - South Africa’s second heaviest innings defeat ever - to a thumping win over the current World Test Champions, in the space of a week.
South Africa made three changes to the team for the second Test, with left-arm spinner, Keshav Maharaj the most surprising, given the history of spinners at Hagley Oval and their lack of impact at the ground. However Elgar had noticed that the surface was drier and less grassy than the seam friendly green strip on which the first match was played. In addition, Elgar just likes to have Maharaj around; for his bowling, his effect on the dressing-room and his tactical acumen.
“Kesh is a banker of mine, I know what I get from him in a playing and competitive nature.” The left arm-spinner took four wickets, three in the second innings, including a beauty to dismiss Daryl Mitchell and also weighed in with a valuable 36 in the first innings with the bat as part of a crucial 62-run ninth wicket stand with Marco Jansen.
Then there was the decision at the toss, one that shocked the opposing team and the former Black Caps greats like Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum commentating on the match for television. “Luckily (the decision to bat first) paid off for us, it was something that might have backfired on us and I would have looked like an absolute idiot. But I'm one of those guys that is willing to live with the decisions I make for the side,” Elgar said.
“Because of what happened in the first Test, the easy, soft decision would have been to bowl first. My character as a leader is not to take the easy way, it is to run towards the pressure.”
“Sometimes you have to make the tough calls for your squad; it worked out, the wicket played slower although it was still difficult on the first day. The decision was about us playing a positive brand of cricket.
Taking the easy way out doesn’t sit well with me,” the Proteas captain explained.