ENGLAND TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA, 111495 –
Dean Elgar was dismissed off the first ball of the Boxing Day Test. © Getty
Too much about the state of South Africa’s batting was captured by a photographer staying in the frame for longer than Dean Elgar atCenturion (on Thursday (December) ). With the bowler, the fielders, the batters and the umpires all locked, loaded and leaning in for the first ball of the men’s Test series against England, Christiaan Kotze – a shutterbug of years’ professional standing – was scuttling out of view with seemly haste. He never made it. At least, not on foot.
Kotze stepped onto an upturned cover still slippery with the morning’s dew, and something in his right knee gave way. So there he lay bang in the middle of the sightscreen: a snapper stricken, a picture of pain, hopelessly over-exposed and desperately trying to crawl out of the scene. He did not get far. First Chris Gaffaney and Paul Reiffel sidled his way officiously. Then several England players moseyed over, like cats gingerly stalking a dustbin. Eventually medics arrived bearing a stretcher, and – to sympathetic applause – carried poor Kotze to his exit, stage left.
, *** four minutes later than advertised. , “Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy Anderson”, as per the Barmy Army, nudged his bespoke Rolls Royce engine into gear at this level for the first time in almost six months and set off towards the crafty, crusty, cussed Elgar, the bearer of South Africa’s standard through so many scrapes and scraps – who dabbed his front foot inside the line of a leg-side loosener unworthy of Anderson, looked to smear it to midwicket, and instead gave Jos Buttler the kind of catch he has been taking , even in his sleep, since he was 10 years old.
Elgar’s stay of one minute, one ball made him the eighth man overall and the second South African – after Jimmy Cook, who edged Kapil Dev to Sachin Tendulkar at second slip at Kingsmead in November – to be dismissed with the first delivery of a rubber. It also added a layer of luster to Anderson’s return from a calf injury to become the ninth player and the first specialist fast bowler to earn Test caps.
Few players are as unconcerned with hiding. their feelings as Elgar, who had taken only a few paces from the wicket before he stopped and fumed with frustration for significantly longer than he had batted. Perhaps, as a member in excellent standing of the glass-half-empty club, he was convinced of what would would happen in the ensuing hours. He had, of course, seen it all before.Aiden Markram, Zubayr Hamza, Faf. du Plessis and debutant Dwaine Pretorius all got themselves in only to get out to an England attack that recognized the ally that is a South African Highveld pitch, and bowled accordingly. Vernon Philander adhered to the first half of that equation and might yet not fall victim to the second bit, what with only one wicket standing.
Another debutant, Rassie van der Dussen. , stopped at the boundary to perform an aggressive range of warm-up stretches and twirled his bat like a baton as the shiny blare of a brass band accompanied him to the wicket. After 654 first-class innings he was finally on parade . The first balls he faced – for six runs – suggested he had submitted himself utterly to the philosophy of Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s new batting consultant. The th, bowled by Sam Curran, a 2019 s matinee idol of a left-armer complete with a helmet of flying hair the color of incandescence itself, streaked across Van der Dussen, took the outside edge and flew into Joe Root’s hands at first slip.
Where had we seen that before? Seven wickets fell to catches in the arc that followed tentative strokes – testament to the doubt England’s bowlers caused, by using the seam effectively, in players whose minds were pre-strewn with misgivings in the wake of five consecutive Test defeats wrapped around a dismal World Cup.
Quinton de Kock was among the edgily departed, but that was all he shared with them. A widely held misconception is that de Kock is not, to put it politely, cricket’s greatest thinker. Closer to the truth is that actions speak louder than either words or thoughts, and that they matter exponentially more. De Kock is a man of action. It’s not that he doesn’t think. It’s that he has little need to think because he was born knowing what needs to be done and how to do it. His analysis of Elgar’s dismissal was as pithy as it was brief: “It’s not the greatest way of getting out.”
There is something Kallisesque in De Kock’s. imperviousness to pressure, in his refusal to have his reaction to threatening deliveries and near misses dictated by his opponents, the conditions or the match situation. His reality is not what the rest of us might recognize as reality. That is what makes him play as if his team were / 4 when he took guard and not, as they were, 97 / 4.
De Kock might several times have taken. himself out of England’s way before he reached 50, and his sixth century was there for the plucking when he steered Curran to Buttler. As he trooped off, he slung his bat across his shoulders and hung a hand from either end, which made him look like an ox under a yoke. He had tamed himself, and he knew it. But at least the theater of competition was, from South Africa’s perspective, a significantly better place when he left than when he arrived. Overall, there wasnt a lot of Kallis’ icy intent on view and even less of head coach Mark Boucher’s bulldog spirit. It would be unfair to judge their impact on the evidence of their first day at the office. As De Kock said after stumps, “It’s only day one with them.” But judged they will be nonetheless. Too much of how South Africa have batted in recent innings was in evidence, and in this scenario continuity is not at all a good thing. So far, not so different, and thus not so good. But, as Christiaan Kotze could have told them, what fells you today might fuel your tomorrow. Not many years ago he was shot in the side in the line of duty while covering a protest. He was unable to get up and get on with it on Thursday, but he knows what it takes to come back strong. He’s taking Friday off, but look out for him around the boundary on Saturday. If his compatriots need an inspiration, he’ll be there. Cricbuzz