Elgar 96 seals seven-wicket win for South Africa at Johannesburg

With the series level at 1-1, the teams travel to Cape Town for a high-voltage decider beginning January 11. 

Dean Elgar's unbeaten 96 helped South Africa beat India by seven wickets at Johannesburg.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Dean Elgar takes us to the heart of Test match cricket where guts and resilience take centrestage.

An old fashioned warrior in the modern era, the left-hander Elgar was Captain Courageous, undefeated on 96, guiding his team to a series-levelling seven-wicket win. He built partnerships along the way as South Africa chased down 240 with plenty to spare on day four of the second Freedom Test at the Wanderers on Thursday. 

With the series level at 1-1, the teams travel to Cape Town for a high-voltage decider beginning January 11.  

Fittingly, Elgar struck the winning blow, flicking R. Ashwin past the ropes.

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Persistent rain meant play could get underway only at 3.45 p.m local time. For South Africa, much hinged on Elgar.

The heavy roller was used by the host which enabled the pitch to firm up for an hour or so before the cracks became a factor again.

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But the cloudy weather worked in South Africa’s favour. You also need bright sunshine for the cracks to open up.

Elgar held firm, defending the good deliveries, leaving ones outside off, getting beaten from time to time and working the ball around craftily.

The lanky Rassie van der Dussen gave Elgar good support. He has an interesting technique. He stands tall, has a high back-lift, but as the bowler is about to release, van der Dussen crouches.

But then, he does not have a pronounced trigger movement which is good. He stroked off either foot. 

Jasprit Bumrah has had success bowling round the wicket to Elgar, and he, once again, employed that angle. Elgar countered him with a straight blade.

And when Ashwin flighted - the off-spinner was brought in to remove the southpaw - Elgar drove him past wide mid-on to reach a combative half-century.

K.L. Rahul, attacking in his methods, did not keep a fielder between third-man and deep point. The bait was thrown at the batters.

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The action was engrossing. Bumrah got a delivery to kick at van der Dussen, who survived fortuitously.

The batter responded by off-driving the next delivery. He then went on to his front foot for a glorious cover-drive.

Mohammed Shami replaced Ashwin, and it was surprising why the in-form Shardul Thakur, who hit the cracks consistently, was not yet brought in.

When Shami strayed in line, van der Dussen flicked him to the fence. And when Shami pitched short, he was pulled past the ropes.

When Shardul came on, the busy van der Dussen sliced him through the cordon, but the next ball was a brutish delivery that struck the batter on the gloves.

Once again, the tall van der Dussen, airborne as he punched Thakur off the back-foot through covers, fought back.   

Shami finally ended van der Dussen’s tenure (40) with a length ball that moved away to find the edge.

The third-wicket pair had added a crucial 82 runs.

The action continued to be gripping. Elgar in a rare movement of aggressive intent slashed Shami dangerously over the slip cordon.

At the other end, Shardul could not latch on to a caught and bowled chance when Temba Bavuma, on zero, uppishly drove a full-length delivery.

Meanwhile, South Africa whittled down the target. Elgar on-drove and steered Shami for boundaries.

And Bavuma, twice, crisply cover-drove Bumrah past the ropes.

The captain-vice-captain duo hurt India. Elgar pulled Mohammed Siraj and dabbed the seamer past the fence.

India did not have an answer.

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