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Dean Elgar stands firm for Proteas, but India closing in on first Test victory

South Africa captain Dean Elgar plays the ball during day four of the first Test against India at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/AFP

South Africa captain Dean Elgar plays the ball during day four of the first Test against India at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/AFP

Published Dec 29, 2021

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Centurion — Having not inspired a lot of confidence in the first innings here — nor on many occasions in the last few years - it’s over to the Proteas batters to do their darndest to save this first Test or maybe, miraculously…

Let’s not go there yet.

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India remain firm favourites to go one up in the three match series. They’ve definitely batted better, especially in the first innings and led by Mohammed Shami bested the South Africans with the ball as well.

ALSO READ: Aiden Markram bowled as India set Proteas 305 to win the first Test in Centurion

India was very very good with the ball, but South Africa’s batters still expected more of themselves, Temba Bavuma claimed after the third day’s play. The bowlers improved after that first morning, and now after the dismal first dig, it’s the batters turn to do the same.

Unfortunately for Aiden Markram, he won’t be one of them, his mind still appeared to be stuck on events from that first innings, particularly as they related to the battle he so comprehensively lost to Shami. On Wednesday the Indian seamer needed just three balls - none of which the South African opener played with any confidence - to get rid of him again.

It’s put a spotlight on one major issue the Proteas’ batting has faced this year — the opening combination. Individually Markram and Dean Elgar, given the limited exposure South Africa has had to Test cricket, haved fared reasonably well in 2021. Markram’s average for the year dropped below 40 with his two innings in this match, but the progress he made in Pakistan still deserves credit.

ALSO READ: India in control despite gritty display from Proteas in first session

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Elgar is the only South African batter to top 400 runs this year, and has played critical innings in Johannesburg against Sri Lanka, in the West Indies and thus far here too.

However as a pair, Markram and Elgar average just 24.60 this year, with a highest partnership of 67 coming in the final innings of the second Test against Sri Lanka. That is no way to protect a fragile batting order which since the tour to the West Indies is trying to bed in a new no.3.

Poor old Keegan Petersen, would be entirely justified in expecting more from two senior players at the top of the order. In his five Test innings, he’s arrived at the crease with the total on 0, 4, 1, 2 and 1 here on Wednesday.

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ALSO READ: Lungi Ngidi takes six as SA fight back on third morning of first Test

Under the circumstances Petersen has equipped himself quite well. In both innings’ in this Test he started well and looked composed while playing some delightful drives. However in five Test innings his highest score is 19 with the 36 deliveries he faced on Wednesday the most he’s played in his career thus far.

Part of the lessons he must take at this early stage of his Test career is to turn those starts into something of greater value for the side. Meanwhile he’ll probably want to have a whisper in the ear of his captain and Markram to give him a little more time to strap his pads on properly before he has to bat.

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Elgar, showed characteristic grit in compiling an 18th Test half century, surviving against more magnificent bowling from India’s quicks, especially a high octane spell from Mohammed Siraj at the Hennops River End.

ALSO READ: Mohammed Shami's magnificence gives India massive advantage over Proteas

Jasprit Bumrah produced two stunning deliveries to account for Rassie van der Dussen and then nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj in the last over of the day.

Elgar and vice captain Temba Bavuma will start on Thursday, the task — both going for a win and surviving the day — looks impossible. The pitch is still providing plenty of assistance for the seamers, there’s the prospect of a second new ball (should India need it) and the skill of the visiting bowlers to overcome. But as Bavuma said during the Test, it’s all about the players standing up for themselves, and the remaining South African batters need to do so on the last day.

SCORECARD

India first innings 327 (KL Rahul 123, Mayank Agarwal 60, Lungi Ngidi 6/71, Kagiso Rabada 3/72) and 16/1 (

South Africa first innings 197 (Temba Bavuma 52, Quinton de Kock 34, Mohammed Shami 5/44, Jasprit Bumrah 2/16)

India second innings 174 (Rishabh Pant 34, KL Rahul 23, Kagiso Rabada 4/42, Marco Jansen 4/55 )

South Africa second innings 94/4 (Dean Elgar 52*, Keegan Petersen 17, Jasprit Bumrah 2/22 Mohammed Siraj 1/25)

South Africa need 211 runs to win

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