DUNEDIN: Opener Dean Elgar produced another feat of concentration in reaching 73 not out to guide South Africa to 157-3 — a lead of 124 runs — at tea Saturday on the fourth day of the first cricket test against New Zealand.
After posting his highest test score of 140 over seven hours in South Africa's first innings of 308, Elgar has now occupied the crease at the University Oval for more than 11 hours to make the largest individual contribution to the outcome of the match.
His endurance allowed the Proteas to weather several storms on Saturday, including stoppages for rain, bad light and, most notably, bitter cold to allay any immediate threat of defeat in the opener to this three-match series.
South Africa began the day at 38-1, a lead of only five runs after New Zealand's 341 had left the Proteas with a 33-run deficit on the first innings. By lunch, with Elgar's guidance, they had reached 100-2 — a lead of 67 — and by tea the tourists were much more soundly placed with the match, likely to be further weather-affected, seemingly headed for a draw.
After several false alarms New Zealand finally achieved the much sought-after wicket of J.P. Duminy (39) between lunch and tea. Duminy had a number of let-offs, surviving several challenges under the Decision Review System and another close call in which he was probably out but which New Zealand chose not to review.
Elgar also had an alarm when dropped on 35 by wicketkeeper B.J. Watling, which might have been a good omen as Watling dropped him on 36 in his first innings, after which he reached his seventh test century. He had another reprieve on the last ball before tea when judged caught behind by Watling from the bowling of Patel: there was a clear sound but no sign on television replays that the ball had taken the bat.
Progress was still slow Saturday even with batsmen who were set, as Elgar and Duminy had been in their partnership of 74 for the third wicket. With the University Oval pitch wearing and footmarks coming into play, batsmen had to be cautious. A lack of pace in the pitch also continued to frustrate stroke making. Credit for South Africa's low scoring rate of little more than two runs per over also belonged to paceman Neil Wagner, who had shouldered a heavy burden in the second innings with 2-38 from 20 overs.
Elgar reached his half century Saturday, the sixth of his career, in 228 minutes from 144 balls with five fours. Captain Faf du Plessis was 16 not out at tea.
Duminy struggled to recover his best form in his lengthy innings. On two, he was judged not out when Trent Boult appealed for a caught behind and immediately referred the umpires' decision to the television official who found no sign of an edge. At 20 he was struck on the back pad by Jeetan Patel but again judged not out. New Zealand chose not to review, though replays suggested the ball was hitting middle stump.
At 27 New Zealand again reviewed a not out decision for lbw and lost their second review when it was clear Duminy had edged the ball onto his pad. His luck finally ran out in the 49th over when Wagner trapped him in front, the lbw decision upheld on review.