Dean Elgar, as the Test captain, is the new alpha-male in South African cricket but instead of leading with belligerence and bravado, the opening batsman’s greatest show of strength comes from his patience, self-denial and determination.
And these were the qualities that rubbed off on rookie Kyle Verreynne during their crucial 87-run partnership for the fourth wicket on the opening day of the second Test against the West Indies at St Lucia on Friday.
Elgar had lost the toss again and this time South Africa were sent in to bat on a pitch that again provided prodigious movement to the bowlers. The Proteas quickly slumped to 37 for three, before the dogged Elgar, ever the survivor, and Verreynne, in just his second Test innings, dug in and turned the momentum of the innings.
Thanks to their defiance, the West Indies seemed to run out of patience and ideas, allowing Elgar and Quinton de Kock to add another 79 runs for the fifth wicket as South Africa ended the first day on a satisfactory 218 for five. Elgar fell shortly before the close for a determined 77 off 237 balls, a true captain’s innings that shepherded his team to safety.
De Kock, fresh off his brilliant unbeaten century in the first Test, looks ominous again as he is on 59 not out.
Verreynne’s own contribution was 27 off 89 deliveries, important for both the team and his own development as an international batsman.
“I am usually quite free-scoring, I like to score quickly, but I found out in the first Test that that is not the way to go on this pitch,” Verreynne said.
“And my chats today with Dean really helped. It’s just my second Test so I don’t have a lot of experience, so Dean was just reminding me to stick to my processes. It was all about time in the middle, it wasn’t important to be scoring runs, we just needed to be there in the middle.
“Dean reminded me of the work I’ve been doing in the net sessions, which has been around adjusting to this pitch and just putting certain shots away. I was fortunate to have the captain at the other end because that really helped me to restrict myself against an attack that is really skilful and they use the Dukes ball to their advantage in quite tough conditions.”
The Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium pitch once again funded plenty of assistance for the seam bowlers and, challenging as it was, it was a great learning experience for the 24-year-old Verreynne.
“There’s been quite a lot of rain around so the pitch has not seen much sun and it was quite tacky. With it being overcast, there was also quite a lot of swing and then the movement off the pitch became quicker as the sun came out and the pitch dried a bit. You just didn’t get a break out there,” Verreynne said.
“At domestic franchise level, you might have to get through spells of five overs or so when the bowling is pretty ruthless, but if you can hang around and get through that then you can kick on, you can cash in. But at Test level you can never relax, the pressure is on the whole day. You have to be on it every ball or you’re going to be found out.”