LONDON - Blood was seeping through the plaster on Dean Elgar’s left hand, there was tape on one finger of his right hand and in between questions at his post-match presser he dropped his head, so exhausted was he.
He immediately claimed that he was ready for the fourth and final Test, however. Bloodied, bruised and in need of a shave, it was nevertheless the type of innings he’s worked his whole career to play.
“I prefer not getting hit,” he smiled, “but so be it, it’s part of the game, you have to take the blows.”
And Elgar did; to both hands, both thighs, his chest, his hip, so merciless were England that at one point a throw from the boundary struck him on the back. Elgar, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You’ve got to take the positive out of it. I guess only an opening batsman could see it that way.”
He endured a barrage from Ben Stokes on Sunday evening but relished being part of a battle.
“It’s brilliant, that’s why you play the game. As a kid you witness that on TV and you hear the crowd singing the person’s name etc, and you don’t get a better occasion than (Monday)," he said.
"You’ve have to try and put it on your side as well, get motivated, that you almost have to be a little more stubborn, tighter in your gameplan, so you can use it in your own game. It’s a great occasion facing a guy like that. He’s a big match player and he’d going to come hard, it’s a great battle playing against him.”
Faf du Plessis said Elgar’s innings has shown his teammates the way and he’s expecting them to follow suit in Manchester, where South Africa have to win to draw the series.
Du Plessis acknowledged that the series has been bizarre, given the huge margins of victories from one Test match to the next.
“It’s a mystery to all of us. There hasn’t been consistently good performances from either team. We were almost never in this Test match. It has been a bizarre series in that way. Hopefully, that trend continues and it will come back to us in the last one.”
Du Plessis cited the improvement shown by Kagiso Rabada in England’s second innings as reasons for optimism ahead of the Old Trafford finale, and along with Morne Morkel, who’s bowled well in this series and a hopefully fully fit Vernon Philander, he remains positive South Africa can put England’s batting under pressure.
As far as his own team’s batting’s concerned, that remains a worry with Elgar carrying a heavy burden. Du Plessis backed Heino Kuhn to retain his spot for Manchester.
“It is a tough place to try and make an impact straight away,” said Du Plessis.
“It’s like a middle order batsman going to India for the first time and you come in and the ball is spinning two metres. This is a really hard job, and we shouldn’t be too hard on judging him - in a really tough series.”
Elgar, who’s had five different opening partners in the last two years, said not having an established mate at the top of the order made the game much harder.
“It is a tough one, it is a little bit up and down, disruptive, especially when you’re playing in this country where the opposition is high class and in their own conditions, they are going to bring out the small weaknesses if you have a new combination.”
“From a personal point of view you have to stick to your gameplan. You can’t really let it affect your gameplan, because then the bigger picture is going to be affected. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will have a substantial partnership so that we can obviously solidify a pair for quite a long time.”