He took a lot of blows en route his brave 86 on a treacherous Wanderers pitch but South Africa opener Dean Elgar says it was not worth the risk and the third and final Test against India should have been called off on the third day itself.
Elgar took a nasty blow on his helmet in the ninth over of South Africa’s second innings which forced early stumps on day three but the match resumed next day after deliberations between the captains and match officials.
“I do think (it should have been called off earlier). On day three, the wicket didn’t play great. Batters got hit a hell of a lot of times. If there was a period to call it off, it was sooner,” Elgar said.
Referring to Philip Hughes’ death in November 2014 due to a head blow, Elgar said: “We had an incident of being hit in the head, where we could have had an incident of what happened in Australia. People want to watch Test cricket but we are also human beings.
“We are not just going to take blows and accept putting our bodies on the line. The situation could have been addressed sooner,” he said.
It was a Jasprit Bumrah delivery that hit Elgar under the grill after being pitched back of a length.
Elgar said he had never experienced such uneven bounce at the Wanderers before and was happy to walk off the field after the umpire finally decided to call off play.
“I had already been peppered three or four times before that. I know what was spoken throughout the day and I know they had a feeling of this wicket not being the greatest. It was extremely freak,” said Elgar, who had a concussion test on the third evening and on fourth morning.
“I’ve faced many fast bowlers before and I know the Wanderers wicket has that steep bounce, but I have never experienced it like that. Which obviously put a bit of doubt in the umpires’ minds.
“I can’t think I would have played it any better because if it was that short on a wicket with bounce, it would have gone way over my head and at least given me some time to get out of the way. It’s a freak moment and thankfully the umpires had sanity about the incident.”
While the pitch looked dangerous on day three, it seemed a different surface on the fourth morning as Elgar and Hashim Amla added 119 runs for the second wicket.
Elgar said it required a different kind of batsman to succeed in those circumstances.
“A lot of times in Test cricket you fight with yourself, especially on a wicket that is allowing seamers to be on top of you,” he said.
“You’ve got to find another way to put your mind out of your current situation. I wish there was another way, but being knocked is not the worst thing I’ve ever been through in cricket.
“It is something that gets me a little feisty out there and it does create a tenacious aspect which I try and use to my fullest.”
In the end, Elgar took a lot of pride from his efforts, saying it was sort of a personal reward for him.
“It’s nice bruises. At least I have something to show for this Test match. It’s a little personal reward I guess.”
Elgar’s gritty innings also came for effusive praise from his captain Faf du Plessis.
“We know Dean has got incredible mental toughness. I think that is his biggest strength as a Test cricketer. He prides on being gritty, being tough, even being ugly and nasty at times. He likes that because it gets the best out of him,” du Plessis said.
“So he is a fighter, our little bulldog in the team. To bat on a wicket like that, any guy that scored runs in this Test, from our side or theirs, had to play a really good innings.
“Mentally, it’s the biggest challenge after being hit a few times last nigh to come back this morning and put on a display of batting like he did was incredible,” he added.