JOHANNESBURG – As we head into the final day and with South Africa on the brink of cricketing history, Stuart Hess looks at some of the plays of the Day on Monday.
“WHY HAVE THEY NOT DECLARED YET?” “THIS IS THE WORST AUSTRALIAN TEAM EVER, BUT FAF WON’T DECLARE.” “WHAT IS SOUTH AFRICA SCARED OF?” “THEY ARE SO NEGATIVE.” “THIS WHY TEST CRICKET IS DYING.”
Gosh, the collective meltdown caused by South Africa batting for two more sessions on Sunday SA is protecting a very valuable prize and with injury concerns over all three frontline seamers, the extra caution on the fourth day was perfectly understandable.
It had been 14 innings since Du Plessis last made a Test hundred. The struggle was real for the South African captain; he’s been hampered by a busted right index finger, which copped another two blows in Sunday’s innings, and he seemed devoid of confidence when shouldering arms to an in-ducker from Cummins on Friday.
This was an innings of great concentration and guts. Du Plessis needed this for his own self-belief and just to make him feel like he’d contributed to the team’s success in this series.
What an epic. Don’t let anyone claim this is why Test cricket is dying. This was Elgar doing exactly what the team wanted, taking away time from the Australians, keeping them in the field, frustrating them and allowing as much time as possible for the buggered bowlers to rest up or be treated.
He went to his 50 with a six (it was almost unseemly given all the blocking), just the 19th scoring shot of his innings at the time. In all, out of 250 balls, in over six hours of batting, he had just 35 scoring shots. Patience, determination and selflessness. A hallmark Elgar innings.
As affable an official as there is in the game, Ian Gould may not look back at the last couple of days with too much fondness. Four of his decisions in the past two days have been overturned on review.
The final day
The last day of the 2017/18 South African cricket season dawns this morning with South Africa still chasing wickets to make history. It’s been a summer in which the performances of the game’s local administrators has been poor, leaving the players to - again - provide most of the good news.
It has been the season where the emergence of youth has created optimism for the future. The likes of Markram, Rabada, De Kock, Ngidi, Maharaj and Bavuma deserve better than they’ve got from the ‘suits’ this season. It’s time CSA upped its game.
Quote of the day
“Everyone being nice to each other from both teams, has been odd. I’ve played a few Tests against Australia and this is the most docile. I’m sure it won’t last.” - Dean Elgar, about the atmosphere in this Test as Australia try out a different culture.