Graeme Smith has praised the battling spirit of Dean Elgar, but has warned against handing Aiden Markram a debut in the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
Opening the batting in England is no easy task, but so far, Elgar has made it look pretty easy, and it’s been characteristic of the way he’s gone about his batting for the past two years for the Proteas. With 286 runs to his name in this series at an average 47.66, Elgar leads the run charts for South Africa in this series. And with 1 460 runs at an average of 40.6, Elgar has amassed more runs than any other South African Test batsman since August 2015.
Former Proteas skipper Smith, in a column he wrote for The Independent on Wednesday, singled out Elgar as the one batsman scoring consistently in a batting lineup that has struggled to post big totals in recent times.
‘A theme of the series has been the side batting second crumbling under scoreboard pressure, a trend South Africa failed to break here. However, amid the obvious failings was yet another gem from South Africa’s most consistent performer, Dean Elgar. He’s a battler and a fighter, and despite admitting to feeling out of sorts technically, he’s looked increasingly assured at the crease,’ said Smith.
‘What we saw from Dean in his superb rear guard in the fourth innings was what can happen when you fight through those periods. Yesterday and today saw his movements become more precise and sharp, and he began unfurling some sumptuous stroke play to accompany his dogged defence,’ Smith continued.
‘Saving the game always looked a step too far, but he can be proud of how he stood up for his country today. Young players can certainly look to Elgar’s knock as a perfect example of the work and determination it takes in order to contribute as consistently as he does.’
Since Alviro Petersen retired in January 2015, the Proteas have sampled four different opening partners for Elgar, with Heino Kuhn being the latest to struggle at the highest level, with a high score of 34 from his six innings so far.
While Smith believes that Kuhn might not be the answer to finding Elgar a long-term opening partner, he believes that blooding-in Kuhn’s potential replacement, Aiden Markram, might be bad timing for a young player who could get unstuck in the English conditions against a high-quality attack.
‘Finding a solid and reliable opening partner for Elgar is a priority for South Africa, and the answer to that question looks unlikely to be answered on this tour. The tour as a whole has been a disappointing one, with the white ball cricket failing to live up to expectations and the Test side now looking down the barrel of their first Test series defeat in England for some time.
‘Throwing Aiden Markram in to the Old Trafford Test in place of Heino Kuhn would be a huge ask of such a young player, and it’ll be interesting to see if the selectors see that as a risk worth taking in order to gauge how Markram stands up at this level.’
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