Proteas coach Shukri Conrad: I haven’t seen Dean Elgar play any better

Dean Elgar walks off the field after scoring 185 against India.

Dean Elgar was given a standing ovation by the Centurion crowd after being dismissed for 185 against India in the first Test. Picture: Christiaan Kotze/ BackpagePix

Published Dec 29, 2023


Man-of-the-Match in the Proteas’s dominant innings victory over India yesterday, Dean Elgar, could not have started what is essentially his last Test series any better, having bossed his way to a career-best and match-winning 185 off 287 balls.

Who would’ve thought that the then 25-year-old, who became one of the few Test batters in the world to cop a pair of ducks on debut, would be sitting only behind Graeme Smith in terms of Test runs as an opener 11 years later?

Going into his last Test in Cape Town, Elgar’s career can only be best described in two words – PERSEVERANCE and PATIENCE.

Test coach Shukri Conrad showered the 36-year-old with praise for his efforts in South Africa’s three-day assassination of what is currently the number-one-ranked Test team in the world.

“Maybe the retirement decision had everything to do with the way he played... I thought Dean was phenomenal,” Conrad told the media following the innings-and-32-run victory.

“I haven’t seen Dean play any better, I must be honest. Also, if you look at Dean’s record, he’s second to Graeme in terms of opening batters – that’s something to be really proud of.”

To go with Elgar’s dominant performance, debutants in Nandré Burger (7/83 in the match) and David Bedingham (58 off 87 balls) – both players who had an uphill journey to finally donning the Proteas whites and baggy green – were just as instrumental to South Africa going 1-0 up in the series.

Burger and Bedingham played as if they were not new to Test cricket, showing nothing but absolute confidence in their skill-sets and the legitimacy of their ripeness, courtesy of their long and hard journeys to the pinnacle of the sport.

“The debutants were fantastic,” a proud Conrad commented.

“I thought Nandré… that’s a massive performance today and the other day.

“David Bedingham, we drool over a lot of players internationally. Maybe it’s time we start drooling over our players.

“I think David is someone we can drool over, and I’m talking about his expertise with the bat in hand.”

Disappointingly, Temba Bavuma’s second consecutive hamstring injury that saw him off the field for the majority of the match lingered over South Africa’s victory, acting almost as a dark cloud in what was an impressive win.

Conrad confirmed that Bavuma will not feature in the second and final Test at Newlands next week, and that Lions batter Zubayr Hamza will be his replacement.

“Temba is not in a great physical state, it’s another hamstring. We felt that there was potential that he could aggravate the injury even further. He will be assessed in two weeks’ time, before the SA20,” the coach said.

“He is definitely out of the Cape Town Test, and Zubayr Hamza will be joining the squad.”

Most importantly, there is a massive excitement for Cape Town’s traditional New Year’s Test match, one that has gone missing the past couple of years as a result of Covid-19.

The players as well have all the motivation in the world as there is an opportunity to win a series against India, having already denied them the pride of becoming the first Indian team to win a Test series in South Africa.

“Everybody is looking forward to the New Year’s Test. There hasn’t been one in a while where crowds were allowed in, and if rumours are to be believed, I think the first few days are pretty much sold out – and that’s all the lifting there is (needed),” said Conrad.

"Then obviously Dean’s swansong. Dean will captain the side. I think I must add, if there was this frosty relationship, he wouldn’t be captaining.

“I think the guys will really be up for it... there is a series to be won.

“Series wins are special, especially series wins against India, and then we can send Dean off properly – that would put the cherry on top for us.”