JOHANNESBURG – It will take a lot of work for new Proteas captain Dean Elgar to find something wrong with his team’s performance in the first Test against the West Indies.
“I’m a guy that always tries to find a negative somewhere,” Elgar acknowledged after his side’s innings and 63-run victory that was completed in less than two and half days at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St. Lucia.
Only one catch was dropped, there was one loose shot from a player on debut which led to his dismissal and maybe Wiaan Mulder could have been better with the ball. That would be nit-picking however. Perhaps the one big negative, would be Elgar’s own contribution with the bat – in that he made none, lasted just five minutes and faced three balls.
However that can be forgiven, maybe not by Elgar himself, who seems to enjoy being ‘Mr Grumpy,’ but by his teammates and the coaching staff.
“It was a proper professional performance by everyone; clinical and ruthless, a bit more of the old school South African style of cricket that I have been pushing for,” he said.
South Africa exerted early pressure on the West Indies after Kraigg Brathwaite chose to bat first, and never relented. Kagiso Rabada was outstanding throughout, setting the example with the ball, and although there was little reward in the first innings, his second innings five-for would put the seal on a dominant Proteas display.
“It was great to see the guys put their hands up with the ball, even though the pitch really assisted the seamers.”
The pitch and the ball – an English manufactured Duke, with a more pronounced seam, which also swings longer – were certainly to the bowlers’ liking. Lungi Ngidi had his best Test match, bowling with excellent consistency and control, while Anrich Nortje continued to perform in the fashion that saw him named South Africa’s Cricketer of the Year.
In gauging the batting, the South African captain reiterated the challenges presented by the pitch and ball. Elgar was pleased the side scored over 300 and there were elements in that display that were encouraging.
Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen picked up where they left off last season, to anchor the innings, and Quinton de Kock was magnificent.
He looked like he was enjoying his cricket again, having battled for much of the last year, burdened with the captaincy, his spot in the batting order changing and of course as he explained on Friday night, the ‘bio bubbles.’
He found an excellent balance between caution and aggression, to take the match beyond the West Indies. His teammates and the management will hope that a Test best score will reignite one of the most important players in the side ahead of a busy period across formats for De Kock.
“Winning one game doesn’t create a lot of success, winning two games and a series is something I will be pushing for.”
The second Test starts on Friday. It will be played at the same ground, but on a different pitch.