Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
2 minute read
15 Jan 2022
3:41 pm

Losing first Test in Centurion was wake up call we needed — Elgar

Ken Borland

"It’s almost a trait of the Proteas that we need to be 1-0 down to realise that our backs are against the wall."

Captain Dean Elgar says the Proteas needed a first Test loss to India to realise they had their backs against the wall. Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

Given the Proteas’ history of being slow starters in series, there are those who would be tempted to arrange that they always lose the first match of a rubber like they did against India, before rebounding superbly to claim the spoils 2-1.

Even captain Dean Elgar admitted in the wake of the epic seven-wicket win in the decisive third Test at Newlands on Friday that he was aware, and rather bemused by, the trend.

South Africa were well-beaten in the first Test against India at Centurion, going down by 113 runs. But they then staged a remarkable comeback, winning by seven wickets at both the Wanderers and in Cape Town, chasing down daunting targets of more than 200 on pitches with plenty of movement on both occasions.

ALSO READ: Elgar reflects on Proteas’ win: ‘We played big moments brilliantly’

“There were so many lows in that first game and losing first-up is never ideal at home,” Elgar said. “But it’s almost a trait of the Proteas that we need to be 1-0 down to realise that our backs are against the wall.

“So after losing the first Test we really knew we were up against it, but the guys really stood up from a character point of view. It worked to bring the best out of the players.

“I’m very relieved the guys responded the way they did and it was a proper squad effort, and a few individuals did exceptional things as well.

“Those were the highlights – the individual performances of players like Keegan Petersen, Marco Jansen, KG Rabada, Temba Bavuma and Lungi Ngidi. It boils down to the mutual respect we have in the squad,” Elgar said.

ALSO READ: Kohli says SA’s bowlers were the difference in Proteas’ series win

After all the turmoil over the last couple of years, the sensational victory over the world’s No 1-ranked side is evidence that things are stabilising in South African cricket.

Under-fire coach Mark Boucher is comfortable that his national team are doing okay whatever his strident critics might be saying.

“I believe we turned the corner quite a while ago, actually. We’ve had pretty solid results for the last six months to a year,” Boucher said. “We’ve tried out a few players and they are coming good now.

“So we are getting some depth, but we are keeping our feet firmly on the ground because we know we are not the finished product. But I liked the intensity we showed, especially in the run-chases when we were looking to score,” Boucher said.