Dean Elgar’s gritty knock turns things around for the Proteas on Day 3 at Vizag.

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David Warner went to England and had a horror series with Stuart Broad silencing him entirely. KL Rahul did no better in West Indies and was promptly dropped from the team. Alastair Cook has retired and Dimuth Karunaratne and Kraigg Brathwaite aren’t converting a lot of their half-centuries. Tom Latham is perhaps the only name alongside Dean Elgar that comes up when discussing the best Test openers currently.

Dean Elgar, who was criticised for his “ugly” batting and less attractive shot-making has proven that to makes runs at the highest level, all you need is grit, composure and the tenacity to weather tough periods and make use of the opportunities. At Visakhapatnam, the South African opener rescued his team from a precarious overnight score of 39/3 to help post 346 runs in the day’s play, the sixth most by a visiting team in India.

Elgar slammed a superb 160, his second century in Asia, to enhance his credentials as a Test opener. Giving him solid company was Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock. While the skipper made a half-century, de Kock went one step further and scored a hundred himself. Elgar, though, was the best South African batsman on the day.

He defended with authority and at the first sign of the ball being fuller, extended his arms to loft down the ground. Employing the cut, sweep and drive with equal ease, Elgar’s 160 will easily earn a place among the best ever tons by visiting openers in India. He is the first left-handed opener since Keaton Jennings to make a Test ton in India. He also became the first South African after Hashim Amla in 2010 to make a hundred here.

Elgar’s quality is best emphasized by his record across conditions.

Elgar in Tests in various conditions

Continent

Inns

Runs

Ave

100s

50s

in Africa

57

2282

45.64

7

10

in Asia

19

573

31.83

2

0

in Europe

8

291

36.37

1

2

in Oceania

13

426

32.76

2

1

The South African opener averages 45.6 at home where he has made seven of his 12 Test tons. In Europe and Australia – New Zealand too, Elgar has shown authority and averages in the mid-30s, reasonable numbers for a Test opener in conditions where batting isn’t easy. He also has three hundreds in these continents combined.

In Asia, Elgar knocked off a superb ton in Sri Lanka in 2014. In 2015 in India, though, Elgar had an average series making 37, 16. 38, 7, 18, 17 and 4. In his last trip to the sub-continent – Sri Lanka last year - Elgar faltered with scores of 8, 4, 0 and 37. As such, he was nearly written off for this tour but came back to show how good a batsman he is.

Best Test openers since 2016 by average (min 50 innings)

Player

Inns

Runs

Avg

100s

50s

D Elgar (SA)

63

2449

40.81

8

10

AN Cook (ENG)

70

2636

39.34

5

11

DA Warner (AUS)

56

2102

38.92

6

10

FDM Karunaratne (SL)

71

2678

38.81

6

16

KC Brathwaite (WI)

59

1855

34.35

4

10

Since 2016, no batsman with at least 50 innings at the top, averages more than Elgar. None of them have made more hundreds either. That the list includes promising players like Cook, Warner, Brathwaite and Karunaratne is testimony to Elgar’s quality.

Feature image courtesy: AFP/ Noah Seelam