Proteas fight back against West Indies after captain Dean Elgar thrives in survival mode
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South Africa 218/5
JOHANNESBURG - Half centuries from Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock helped to wrench control away from the West Indies at the end of the opening day of the second Test at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St. Lucia on Friday.
It was by no means an easy day for batting and the West Indies may rue how they allowed South Africa back into the match after dominating the opening session.
Elgar needed every ounce of his renowned fighting temperament to make 77, while De Kock, finished the day unbeaten on 59, looked by far the most comfortable of South Africa’s batsmen, although even he saw the ball go passed his outside edge on a few occasions.
West Indies captain, Kraigg Brathewaite took advantage of winning the toss this time, by inserting the tourists. The pitch, lively early but slow in pace, with cloudy overhead conditions that aided swing while the ball - the English manufactured Dukes remember - with its more prominent seam, helped the bowlers with movement off the surface.
South Africa slumped to 37/3 by the 18th over, an understandable scoreline given the conditions were so heavily in favour of the bowlers, but one the Proteas would have been unhappy about because the batsmen played too much of a part in their dismissals.
Aiden Markram and Keegan Petersen fell to loose strokes, while Rassie van der Dussen, may regret an error of judgement in leaving a ball from Kemar Roach that slanted back into him.
Elgar was in full survival mode in that first session; balls seaming or swinging across him or deliveries beating his outside edge were greeted with a wry smile. He even had sympathy for some of the home team’s bowlers when they beat him. He was happy to accept that, as long as they didn’t get him out.
At lunch the West Indies were on top, with South Africa 44/3. That position was eerily similar to the one the West Indies were in on the first day of the opening Test - 48/4, when Brathwaite had chosen to bat.
Whereas South Africa maintained the pressure after lunch to bowl the West Indies out for 97, the home side’s intensity dropped alarmingly almost immediately after the break.
Shannon Gabriel, back in the side in place of Rakheem Cornwall after missing the first Test with a hamstring strain, conceded 15 runs in the first over after the interval, including eight extras. There was a general lethargy about the West Indies, which didn’t fit with a team supposedly in charge of the game and needing to win it to draw the series.
Elgar and Kyle Verreynne built a crucial partnership that eventually totalled 87 runs to steady the innings and in the context of the match, it may yet prove crucial.
The South African captain was slightly more fluent in the middle session, with the West Indies providing him a few chances to drive, by bowling to full.
Verreynne, after his poor shot on debut, fought well in the company of his captain, but the timing of his dismissal - in the penultimate over before tea - and the manner of it - a thin edge down leg side trying to pull Gabriel - was infuriating.
While never entirely comfortable, Elgar and Quinton de Kock did score fairly quickly after the tea break. De Kock timed the ball better than any other batsmen, and shared another vital partnership of 79 runs for the fifth wicket with Elgar.
In fact, while the odd ball still beat the bat, it looked as if the South Africans had done enough to see off what was a tiring West Indies attack.
Kyle Mayers made a crucial, and surprising breakthrough, which again indicated how tough batting was and will continue to be on that pitch for the remainder of the match. Even with the ball 78 overs old he still got it to swing, taking one away from Elgar, and then bringing the next one into him, beating the left-hander’s defences.
Elgar’s 77, included eight boundaries and was the glue binding the touring team’s innings together. His dismissal provided a timely boost for the hosts shortly before the close and with the second new ball available in the morning, the first session looms as a crucial period which may define which way the match may go.