Proteas’ Dean Elgar takes the bull by the horns with brilliant century in final rodeo

Proteas opener Dean Elgar cekebrates his century on the second day of the first Test against India at Supersport Park.

Proteas opener Dean Elgar cekebrates his century on the second day of the first Test against India at Supersport Park. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix

Published Dec 27, 2023


First Test

India: 245 all out (KL Rahul 101, Rabada 5/59, Burger 3/50)

Proteas: 256/5 (Elgar 140*, Bedingham 56, Bumrah 2/48, Siraj 2/63).

On the Proteas’ wretched tour of Australia at the end of last year their captain seemed to be a broken man. Dean Elgar could not buy a run. Victory and the team that he was charged with leading had become strangers.

By the time he arrived back for the home summer, he had lost his job to Temba Bavuma.

Furthermore, he could feel the complete end was nigh with new Test coach Shukri Conrad seemingly wanting to move the team in a different direction.

So, instead of waiting to be pushed overboard, Elgar opted to jump and announced that the upcoming India series would be his farewell to the international game.

But as we’ve already seen with Quinton de Kock at the recent World Cup and David Warner for Australia, the knowledge that this will be the final rodeo has the ability to stir the coals and ignite the fire within the belly like no other.

And so it proved for Elgar on the second day of this absorbing first Test here at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

It is testament to Elgar’s “resilience, dog fight, pride in performance and that ability to never back down” - all attributes Conrad referred to in the pre-Test build-up that he has managed returned from this slough of despond in such an impressive manner.

Elgar was imperturbable as ever, playing to his traditional strengths, but amid the nurdles and nudges, there were also delightful square drives that brought up his 14th Test century, while also establishing an enviable position for his side with the Proteas finishing the day on 256/5 - an advantage of 11 runs already with half the team still in the dugout.

When Elgar walked off to the comfort of the dressing room under gloomy Centurion skies, he raised his bat in acknowledgement of the applause for his undefeated 140.

But this innings was much more than just the runs he managed to accumulate on his own.

Elgar was the calming influence throughout the day from the moment Aiden Markram was dismissed cheaply.

The Proteas’ Test batting unit has been fragile for some period of time. The situation was compounded here at Centurion with captain Temba Bavuma not taking the field at all yesterday and could therefore not bat higher than No 7.

In the end, he did not walk to the crease at the fall of the fifth wicket.

There are also a host of fresh faces still finding their way in Test cricket. Tony de Zorzi is only playing his third Test, while David Bedingham was yet to face a ball in international cricket.

But with Elgar’s stabilising force at the non-striker’s end, the Western Province duo knuckled down to keep an admittedly wayward Indian attack at bay for the most part.

De Zorzi showed that he had the gumption for the extended pressure of Test cricket, forming part of a 93-run partnership with Elgar for the second wicket that went along way in settling the nervous tension in the Proteas dressing room.

Although the dreadlocked left-hander only managed 28, the way he managed to stifle the Indian attack will do plenty for his confidence for the remainder of the series. Ultimately, it took a peach of a delivery from the tireless Jasprit Bumrah to find De Zorzi’s outside edge that was neatly gobbled at slip.

Keegan Petersen went cheaply after playing a loose shot outside the off stump to chop Bumrah on to his stumps to once again open the door for India at 113/3 shortly after lunch.

An intimidating situation, let alone for a debutant in Bedingham to walk to the crease for the first time in Test cricket.

The 29-year-old has, however, travelled a long road to his moment of destiny and never seemed flustered with his feet moving as confidently at the crease, especially when playing back to the pacers.

A couple of powerful pull shots that sailed on to the grassbanks illustrated this to perfection.

Elgar had found the perfect partner in Bedingham, and allowed him to ease through to the milestone that he celebrated with gusto and showed everyone just how much playing for his country and the badge on his chest still meant to him.

Equally, with Bedingham playing fluently as he scorched a couple of cover drives over the Centurion turf too, the partnership yielded 131 runs with the debutant also bringing up a maiden Test half-century in the process.

India managed to stage a mini fight back towards the close with Bedingham and his provincial skipper Kyle Verreynne’s scalps, but the visitors will certainly feel they let themselves down with the ball after KL Rahul had struck a splendid back-to-the-wall century in the morning.