He got under the flighted delivery from Ravichandran Ashwin and executed a premeditated slog-sweep to perfection and with power, placing it right into the cow corner for a boundary. And even before the ball embraced the ropes, Dean Elgar had taken off his helmet to soak in all the applause from the dressing room while exhaling a sigh of relief with a huge roar. It was South Africa's first Test century in India since Hashim Amla's triple-figure knock in 2010. But for Elgar, its significance lies elsewhere.
Six years back, when Elgar made his debut appearance in India for a Test, he was dismissed while attempting to execute a similar slog-sweep against a conventional offspinner from Ashwin. The spinner has since then got the better of him five times across two Test series. But on Friday, it was Elgar who emerged on top, courtesy the assuredness of his footwork, reminiscent of Alastair Cook in 2012.
With the pitch still offering some turn to the spinners, Virat Kohli eagerly launched Ashwin into the attack on the second evening, especially with another left-hand batsman up for grabs. Ashwin has an impressive bowling figure against left-handers and his numbers against Elgar only illustrates his dominance. In his first series against India, in 2015, Elgar was dismissed four times in 140 deliveries while scoring only 55 runs. And in the next contest, which took place in January 2018, Elgar was dismissed once by Ashwin in two Tests while scoring 36 runs in 87 deliveries. Hence, it was only a calculative call from Kohli to give the new ball to Ashwin. But Elgar was a man with a plan on Friday.
He started off calmly against Ashwin with rock-solid defense while showing great composure in scoring only two runs in his first 27 deliveries that he faced from Ashwin. And in a bid to release the piling pressure, he attacked the bowler from the other end - Ishant Sharma at the start of the innings, followed by Ravindra Jadeja. Elgar played only 13 per cent attacking shots against the spinner at stumps on Day 2.
It has been an embattled South African team that has arrived in India. Not much was expected when they resumed batting on Day 3, especially after the Indian spinners bagged three wickets while maintaining a lead well over 450. Elgar did suffer a brain-fade moment right at the start of the morning session on Day 3 with the unanticipated non-turner from Ashwin missing the off stump, but he recovered well and was a rather calming sight at the top with his tight defense and leaves along with his occasional chip over the infield for boundaries to draw some breathing space and time. In fact, some of those boundaries came against two flighted deliveries from Ashwin - an aggressive four over mid-on and the other was a wristy, down-the-ground stroke through the same area.
With skipper Faf du Plessis by his side, the two showed some fight for South Africa after the quick dismissal of Temba Bavuma at the start of the day. They showed a lot of positive intent while the ball got softer en route to South Africa's first 100-plus partnership against India since the start of their last tour. And with their impressive stand, they laid a blueprint for the middle-order lineup, the technique similar to what Cook had followed back in 2012.
Both Elgar and Faf used their front foot more often on Day 3, although both Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowled a lot of fuller deliveries on Friday. But the two were decisive with their footwork and sought to put pressure back on the spinners with sweeps and lofted strokes when opportunities arrived. According to ESPNCricinfo, Elgar used his front foot on 78 per cent of the shots against spinners and stayed on backfoot on 18 per cent of the strokes. On the other hand, for Faf it was 73-21. Also, just like his skipper, Elgar, en route to his century, scored at over five runs per over against spinners and played 25 per cent attacking shots on day 3 against the variety.
Eventually, going by the technique, Elgar overcame his tormentor to carve an innings of immense grit and score a century against India after losing the toss