Sport

Cricket: Elgar orchestrates Proteas’ comeback and four other talking points

Dean Elgar knuckled down to record his seventh Test century and help South Africa craft a recovery from 22 for three, after the Proteas won the toss and elected to bat on day one of the first Test in Dunedin. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

On a see-saw day in Dunedin, South Africa’s first innings in the first Test against New Zealand was galvanised by Dean Elgar, who notched up his seventh century after the Proteas won the toss and elected to bat first. Elgar was still there when stumps were called – unbeaten on 128 with Temba Bavuma knuckling down, also unbeaten on 38, at the other end at the close of play.

The Proteas ended day one on 229-4, a decent recovery after stumbling to 22 for three at one stage with Stephen Cook, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy contributing a total of five runs between them. Elgar, Faf du Plessis and Bavuma, though, managed to bring some calm to proceedings. Here are the key talking points from day one.

What’s up with New Zealand’s team selection?

Curiously, New Zealand opted for two spinners. Captain Faf du Plessis joked at the toss that they weren’t “sure what was going on” when they saw the team sheet, but so far the pitch hasn’t been too badly behaved. Mitchell Santner's selection isn't too much of a surprise, he is New Zealand's fourth highest wicket taker since January 2016. Jeetan Patel's figures are less flattering, but he has done a tidy job in this Test so far. It might be the Black Caps’ way of trying to nullify the pace of both Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel.

Speaking of Morne Morkel…

He makes his return to Test cricket for the first time since January 2016. The lanky paceman has struggled with a back injury that very nearly ended his career over the last few months and returns to action on the back of very little red ball cricket. Du Plessis said he fully believes Morkel is fit and he has been working incredibly hard in the nets, but South Africa’s luck with bowlers returning from injury and not falling to bits hasn’t exactly been too great of late.

The contrast of the two openers

Elgar had a little bit of luck throughout the day, but for the most part he played the pitch and bowlers on their merits. He did an incredible job under pressure to help South Africa recover from the precarious position they found themselves at three for 22. Cook, meanwhile, was undone by a moment of indecision. Neither player has had the luxury of a warm-up fixture in New Zealand and neither has toured here for Test cricket before so it might just be a case of being a little bit slow to adapt for Cook.

Temba Bavuma shows his team mates how it’s done

Bavuma ended the day unbeaten on 38 but he'd already hit as many boundaries as Du Plessis had in his entire innings of 52. South Africa’s batsmen were, at times, extremely cautious – some might say too much so – in their approach. Bavuma wasted no time to get cracking, though, and if there were any concerns about the pitch misbehaving, he proved that there’s no need to be.

Frustrating Faf

Like Bavuma, Du Plessis opted for a slightly more aggressive approach – a far cry from the snail’s pace tactic he usually employs when his side is in a bit of a pickle. This time, though, it didn't work so well for him. Having just had a leg-before decision against him overturned, Du Plessis decided it was a good time to attack Jimmy Neesham by fetching one from outside off. Instead of making contact, he got a top-edge and was caught out at deep square leg.

Quote, unquote 

“We've had a lot of battles on the field as young boys, from school cricket going onwards, we hated playing against each other” – Neil Wagner on his time playing against Dean Elgar in schoolboy cricket. DM

Scorecard summary

South Africa 229-4: Dean Elgar 128* (262), Temba Bavuma 38* (101), Neil Wagner 20-4-59-2

Photo: South African batsmen JP Duminy (left) and Dean Elgar embrace after Duminy scored a century on day 3 of the first Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Western Australia Cricket Ground (WACA) in Perth, Western Australia, Australia, 05 November 2016. EPA/DAVE HUNT

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