Walking into cricketing sunset in another 11 days, Dean Elgar displayed his understated brilliance with a counter-offensive hundred that not only neutralised KL Rahul’s superlative ton but also put South Africa in complete command on the second day of the opening Test against India on Wednesday. Playing his 85th and penultimate Test, left-handed Elgar (140 batting, 211 balls), not exactly known for his elegant stroke-play, stacked up his 14th Test hundred and also took South Africa to 256 for 5 at stumps to offset India’s first innings total of 245.
With debutant David Bedingham (56 off 87 balls), who hit a fluent half-century that included two massive pulled sixes, Elgar added 131 runs for the fourth wicket as India now will have to play a catching game.
The conditions remained bowling friendly as clouds hovered over throughout the second day, but it was Mohamamed Shami’s absence and ineptitude of Shardul Thakur (0/57 in 12 overs) and inability of debutant Prasidh Krishna (1/61 in 15 overs) that hurt India dearly as they neither found the right line nor the length on the day.
Jasprit Bumrah (2/48 in 16 overs), in his comeback Test, gave his all and Mohammed Siraj (2/63 in 15 overs) was 200 percent honest in his effort but two couldn’t have done the job which required all four to sing from the same hymn sheet.
Ravichandran Ashwin (0/19 in 8 overs) kept things tight but this isn’t the pitch where one can expect him to run through the opposition.
On the day, Indian bowlers were hammered for 37 boundaries and two sixes.
In a country with megastars in batting like Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers, Elgar’s era was the one where Proteas cricket was on the decline.
Elgar was never an alpha-male but someone who has been a glue for this Test team over the past decade.
He is a local lad, who would unassumingly drive his sports car through the Supersports Park gate with not many people giving a second glance, but will wait for the front office lady to arrange for the complimentary tickets as he will be appearing at his home ground one last time.
If anyone cared to listen, he would tell the person casually that it doesn’t make sense for him to continue playing Test cricket for the lure of four games a year when he is already pushing 37.
Elgar is not a patch on Brian Lara, David Gower or for that matter even Kumar Sangakkara, but there is that Shivnarine Chanderpaul like grit. He knows how to get his job done.
Elgar nicely blended defence with a plethora of pulls and tucks off his legs and ferocious cuts. He left a few deliveries during the first 30 minutes and missed a few before Shardul and Prasidh played into his hands.
By the time, Siraj castled Bedingham and Prasidh got his first Test victim in Kyle Verreynne, India had lost the initiative.
Rahul’s best Test knock
In the morning, Rahul scored one of his most satisfying hundreds in extremely difficult batting conditions to take India to an above-par first innings score.
Starting the day unbeaten on 70, Rahul made a brilliant hundred and the innings could well be considered on par with some of the best knocks played by Indians in SENA countries if the degree of difficulty is taken into account.
No Test batter from any other country has been able to score two Test hundreds at this venue and Rahul now holds that unique record.
His innings had 14 boundaries and four sixes as he most of the time decided to ride the bounce rather than get on top of it en route his eighth Test ton.
As someone who was dropped earlier this year during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India on account of poor form, this was some comeback for Rahul where he was literally the lone ranger.
Consistency has been the problem for the Bengaluru man but class has never been an issue as his range is as good as a Virat Kohli or a Rohit Sharma.
The ramp shot off Kagiso Rabada (5/59 in 20 overs) was pure class while a quick bye run stolen off Gerald Coetzee to prevent a genuine No. 11 Prasidh from facing more of the fast bowler was pragmatic.
Rahul got into the 90s with a smashing six as he picked Rabada’s length very early and dispatched him into square leg grass embankments.
The hundred came when he slogged Coetzee into the ‘Cow Corner’ for his fourth and final maximum.
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