Dean Elgar believes the Proteas are in a steady place going into day two, as they aim for 350-plus in their first innings.
The Proteas had a slow start to their first Test in Dunedin, and were rattled by the fall of three quick wickets. Only 22 runs were scored in 19 overs, with Stephen Cook (3), Hashim Amla (1) and JP Duminy (1) all crumbling early on.
Two key partnerships, spearheaded by Elgar, brought South Africa back into the game. His fourth-wicket partnership of 126 with his captain Faf du Plessis (52 off 118) brought the visitors back into the match, preventing what could have been an embarrassing day for SA.
After the wicket of Du Plessis, Elgar (128) and Temba Bavuma (38) combined for an 81-run fifth-wicket partnership to steady the ship as the Proteas ended the day on 229-4 (90.0).
Talking to the media at stumps on Wednesday, Elgar revealed what he expects from day two.
‘I think we are in a strong position, being only four down on a wicket where it seems like with the newer ball anything can happen,’ he admitted. ‘Their spinners bowled well not to give us run-scoring opportunities. To be four down after 90 overs of cricket, we’ll take that.
‘We were looking at about 250-280 at about tea-time,’ he said. ‘Now we are in a good position after not losing a wicket in the last session, so we can re-adjust. I think 350 is 450 on this wicket because of the slowness of the pitch, it also takes away time and allows the wicket to deteriorate for our spinners to come into the game.’
The 29-year-old says adjusting to the extreme elements in New Zealand made it mentally and physically harder, as he tried to absorb the pressure during the tough periods while looking to score when the opportunity was there.
‘It was right up there as one of the toughest days of Test cricket so far in my career,’ said Elgar.
‘Their bowlers are quality; Boult, Wagner and a guy who had a lot of success in the ODI series, Jeetan Patel. It was hard graft; we knew that if we gave them an hour things would maybe settle down and we could open the scoring. They bowled well on a wicket that didn’t really assist them too much, their discipline was very good.
‘We know it’s tough, whether we are 100-0 or 22-3, I am always going to approach the game the same,’ he explained.
‘This game is a mental game and you need to use it in your favour. It worked out that it was one of those situations where you had to scrap it out and fight it out and not think about yourself. For once you had to think about the bigger picture, that was the team, and what the team needed at that moment. I’m not very talented at free-scoring like other guys, so you have to use your advantage, that is obviously my ability to try and guts it out and grind it.’