Dean Elgar, South Africa’s opening batsman, remains adamant that he did not hit the ball that led to his dismissal on the fourth evening in Cape Town, a moment that could yet prove to be pivotal in his side’s bid to defend their 1-0 series lead.
Elgar, who admitted to a first-innings “brain-fart” after falling to Dom Bess when well set on the second afternoon, had been resolute in his defence second-time around, as he and Pieter Malan compiled a first-innings partnership of 71, South Africa’s first fifty-plus opening stand since they played Pakistan, also at Cape Town, last January.
However, on 34, Elgar pushed forward with hard hands to the legspin of Joe Denly, who had been troubling him with big turn out of the left-hander’s rough. Umpire Paul Reiffel responded to England’s appeal for caught-behind, though not before a long pause for thought, and though Elgar instantly reviewed, the decision was upheld when a thin spike was detected on Ultra-Edge.
It was a contentious moment – the murmur on Ultra-Edge might have been small enough to discount had the on-field decision not already been given – and speaking to Sky Sports shortly after the close, Elgar maintained that he and his team had been hard done by.
Did he hit it? You decide pic.twitter.com/Q3V1bxf9bz
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) January 6, 2020
“No,” he said, when asked directly whether he had hit the ball. “I wouldn’t waste the referral, knowing that I’ve nicked it. I don’t play cricket like that. I’d like to see myself as someone who will take the outs when they are definitely out, and like I said, I wouldn’t waste it on this.
“It’s a little bit of an emotional time when those kind of things happen, but obviously having simmered down and watched the footage, I can still say right now I didn’t hit it.”
Asked whether he trusted the technology that reached the decision in England’s favour, Elgar added: “I’m going to reserve my comments because I don’t want to get into trouble via the ICC, but as a player, I can say that I’m very confident that I didn’t hit it.
“It is what it is, and it’s what creates the theatre of Test cricket, I guess,” he said. “Sometimes you have those things go your way and sometimes you don’t, and unfortunately today, when I was feeling a million dollars, it didn’t work out for us, but saying that, we’ve still got guys in the shed.”
One of those is Elgar’s new opening partner, Malan – a player making his debut after a finger injury curtailed Aiden Markram’s series. He reached the close on 63 not out, after a doughty start to an innings that has now spanned more than three hours.
“It’s awesome to see him performing,” said Elgar. “I know he’s spent a lot of time on the sidelines – not playing for South Africa A, and maybe not cracking into the Test side. It’s been hard work for him but I know he’s putting a lot of hard yards in and it’s awesome to see him perform like he did today.”
As for the match situation, Elgar said that South Africa would be taking the final day of their rearguard “ball by ball”, when they resume 312 runs adrift with eight wickets standing.
“I think we’ve about 540 balls and we’re going to try and break it up per the batsman,” he said. “We just need maybe two or three guys to come in and really grind it out. We’ve got batters in the shed that can do it and the wicket’s playing quite nicely. The biggest thing you’ve got to do is start well on this wicket and once you back your defence. I think you can negate most things.”
Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s batting consultant, also recognised Elgar’s dismissal as a potentially crucial moment in the contest.
“He was disappointed but that’s the rub of the green. He thought he was a little bit unlucky,” Kallis said.
When asked whether Elgar was disappointed because he thought he hadn’t hit the ball or because the edge had been found, Kallis said: “If I tell the truth, I might get into trouble. Or I might get a fine.”