A top-class century by Dean Elgar on a tricky Wanderers pitch has put South Africa in a position of strength in the second Test against Sri Lanka and the gritty left-hander said on Monday that he enjoyed the challenge and being able to cope with the various fluctuations in batting flow that inevitably happen during four hours at the crease.
Elgar’s 127 was the bedrock of the South African first innings of 302 that gave them a commanding lead of 145, but apart from displaying his usual tenacious streak, it was also a fluent innings, coming off just 163 deliveries and featuring 22 boundaries.
“It’s about the ebb and flow of batting in Test cricket and you do go through periods when you have to absorb pressure, and then you’ll have a short window where you can score more freely when the bowlers maybe start searching for a little bit extra,” Elgar said after notching the second-fastest of his 13 Test centuries.
“So I went through the gears quite a bit, but that’s the nature of Test cricket – you can’t just have one gear and expect to be consistent.
“It was tough, we know what the Wanderers is like, it was bowler-friendly conditions and there was a lot of movement and in the air too. So the mental aspects of batting are challenged and it’s nice to put yourself through a challenge like that. It’s like coming out the other side of a tunnel and if your team is then in a good position then that’s all you can ask for.”
While Elgar and Rassie van der Dussen (67) shared a second-wicket stand of 184 – a record both for South Africa against Sri Lanka and in all Wanderers Tests – there was a glaring failure by the rest of the batting line-up to capitalise as the Proteas lost their last nine wickets for 84 runs. Instead of shutting the tourists out of the game through sheer pressure of runs, they gave Sri Lanka a glimmer of hope and the visitors batted gamely, led by captain Dimuth Karunaratne’s 91 not out, to reach 150 for four at stumps in their second innings.
“It was a well-under-par total especially after the big partnership, but this is not an easy place to bat, especially for the new batsman coming in. There were quite a few very good balls bowled so credit to Sri Lanka, and when you come in you have to really be on form. If you’re able to get through that tough time up front, if you respect the conditions, then you can cash in.
“It was not ideal that I got out and then Rassie straight afterwards, but maybe we relaxed a bit mentally, maybe we need to trust our techniques a bit longer.
“If you can apply yourself for lengthy periods, leave well and trust your defence, then the conditions will start to flatten out. If you stay in your bubble and not play rash shots, then the pitch does start to do less,” Elgar said.