Dean Elgar ready for ‘massive’ Test decider against India

Published January 11, 2022
South Africa's Dean Elgar celebrates reaching his half century in second Test against India at Imperial Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa, January 6. — Reuters
South Africa's Dean Elgar celebrates reaching his half century in second Test against India at Imperial Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa, January 6. — Reuters

CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s Dean Elgar says the third and final Test against India at Newlands on Tuesday is his team’s biggest match in 15 years as they look to win a series against the number one side in the world and provide confidence to a new group of players.

India won the first Test by 113 runs in Pretoria, before the home side bounced back with a seven wicket win in the second in Johannesburg, boosted by skipper Elgar’s unbeaten 96 in the second innings as they chased down 240 to win.

For a South Africa team that has lost a number of experienced players in recent years and slipped to number six in the ICC Test Rankings, victory in Cape Town could be a turning point, according to Elgar.

“This Test is potentially the biggest we have had in 15 years,” Elgar told reporters on Monday. “It would be the biggest win of my playing career and massive for us.

“We have been playing pretty good cricket, though we have had quite a few things not go our way. We have been doing everything right. What we did in the last Test as a playing group speaks volumes about us. Winning this series would be huge.”

Elgar does not foresee any changes to his side and expects the players to be up for the fight.

“We are trying to be as stable as possible with regards the playing XI. We saw at The Wanderers [in the second test], the moment we brought the intensity it seemed to fluster the Indians quite a lot. It would be silly for us to not try and replicate that,” he added.

The Newlands pitch is traditionally a seamer’s paradise, with Australia bowled out for 47 in 2011 and New Zealand for 45 in 2013, but does not have the pace and bounce of Highveld tracks.

Elgar believes the wicket for this game will potentially see the match go five days.

“The conditions look good, I think it is the best I have seen Newlands for quite some time,” he said. “They are trying to prepare a good Test wicket, they want it to deteriorate on day four and five. I think they want us to play five days of cricket.”

Indian captain Virat Kohli, meanwhile, brushed aside concerns about his form as he looked ahead to the decisive Test.

Without a century in his past 14 Tests, Kohli said he believed he was still making important contributions to the team.

“I don’t look at myself from the lens that the outside world looks at me with,” said the 33-year-old who has been a fixture in the Test team since making his debut against the West Indies in 2011.

“The standards that they are talking about have been set by myself, they are not an utterance from outside. I take a lot of pride in wanting to do the best thing for the team and wanting to perform regularly for the team. I have been able to do that for a long period of time.”

Kohli’s last Test hundred came against Bangladesh in Kolkata over two years ago in November 2019 but he said he had still been contributing.

“As a player and a batsman I have been involved in many important moments for the team over the last calendar year or so,” he said. “I have been part of very important partnerships when the team needed me and those moments have been crucial for us in many Test matches. I’m at peace with how I am playing.”

Kohli said he was fully fit after missing India’s defeat in the second Test in Johannesburg because of a back spasm.

However, fast bowler Mohammed Siraj will not be playing after suffering a hamstring strain in Johannesburg. One of Ishant Sharma or Umesh Yadav are likely to get the nod as a replacement.

“I don’t think he [Siraj] is match ready and you can’t risk a guy who is not at 110% as a fast bowler. We are yet to sit down to decide what we want to do about the replacement,” Kohli said. “It is difficult to figure out who we play because everybody is at the top of their game.”

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2022

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