It’s an open and shut case at the top for El­gar and ‘Cooky’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

DEAN El­gar doesn’t mind that he’s not a flam­boy­ant open­ing bats­man. Nor does he mind that he and Stephen Cook are a “throw­back” open­ing part­ner­ship that doesn’t fit mod­ern cricket’s fast and fu­ri­ous tastes.

“What our team needs now are ma­ture heads and wiser crick­eters at the top of the or­der,” said El­gar, who was named Man of the Series af­ter scor­ing 308 runs in the three Tests against Sri Lanka, in­clud­ing a cen­tury and two fifties.

He and Cook shared their first cen­tury stands as open­ers and have, for the fore­see­able fu­ture at least, se­cured their spots at the top of the South African Test or­der. “There will be a time when you must knuckle down and graft and there’ll come a time to score a bit freely and then you might be in the same mould as (Aus­tralian) Dave Warner, but he’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent crick­eter to my­self and Cooky.”

In­deed, but the Proteas need grafters Cook and El­gar to­gether af­ter the se­lec­tors and coach­ing staff re­alised the er­ror of their ways in stick­ing too long with Sti­aan van Zyl as an opener.

Cook and El­gar av­er­age 37.92 to­gether as an open­ing pair; not earth-shat­ter­ing, but when you con­sider the pitches they played on in the series against Sri Lanka and the new-ball bowlers they’ve faced in the last year – Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Stu­art Broad, James An­der­son, Mitchell Starc, Josh Ha­zle­wood and the best that Su­ranga Lak­mal has bowled in his life – it’s not a bad re­sult.

“You’ve got to have a qual­ity open­ing part­ner­ship if you’re go­ing to be a qual­ity Test team and we are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion now,” said coach Rus­sell Domingo.

“Stephen and Dean have a good thing go­ing at the top, they com­pli­ment each other re­ally well, they are gutsy, gritty play­ers. They way they played on that first morn­ing (at the Wan­der­ers) was won­der­ful. They only put on 45 but it felt like a hun­dred be­cause of the na­ture of the wicket.”

And the na­ture of their per­son­al­i­ties means the pair en­joy each other’s com­pany, too.

“He’s a funny cat,” El­gar chirped about his part­ner. “We can crack a joke and there’ll be a good re­sponse. Also you don’t have to say a lot out there. I’ve known Cooky for many years, which is a sav­ing grace for us.”

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