Cricket Corner: Warner and Elgar bid adieu as death knell tolls for Tests


Cricket Corner: Warner and Elgar bid adieu as death knell tolls for Tests

Dean Elgar scored a brilliant century against India in his penultimate Test
Dean Elgar scored a brilliant century against India in his penultimate TestAFP
In this weekly feature, Flashscore's Pat Dempsey brings together the leading talking points from the increasingly sprawling universe of the world's second-most watched sport.

In a nod to the longest form of the game - Test cricket - the article is broken into three sections to mirror the main intervals in a day’s play: Lunch - the main course; Tea - something extra; and Stumps (the end of play) - something to ponder over a few drinks at the bar.

Lunch: Warner's last hurrah

It’s been well documented by now but, in case you’ve been living under a rock, David Warner will play his final Test for Australia this week in Sydney. The match - the third and final of the series against Pakistan - will likely have begun (starting on Wednesday) by the time you are reading this first edition of Cricket Corner for the year.

Since our last edition, a pretty brilliant Boxing Day Test has come and gone. In fact, quite a lot has happened in two weeks. It feels like many moons ago that there was pressure on Warner’s spot in the team going into the first match of the series in Perth. His opening-day century there swiftly silenced his critics and the conversation around Warner pivoted instantly from one of critique to commemoration.

Leading into the Test in Sydney, Warner announced that he would be retiring from one-day internationals (ODI) as well with one small caveat. "I know there's a Champions Trophy coming up," he said. "If I'm playing decent cricket in two years' time and I'm around and they need someone, I'm going to be available." The Champions Trophy he is referring to is not until 2025 and it feels unlikely that the opening spots in Australia’s ODI side won’t be sewn up by then with Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh the obvious long-term options and plenty of talent waiting in the wings.

Warner goes into his final Test just one century short of 50 tons across Tests, ODIs and Twenty20 (T20) internationals. Bringing up that milestone would be some achievement but even without that, his record is incredible. In all formats combined, he is second in Australia’s all-time lists for total centuries and runs - behind only Ricky Ponting in both categories. Say what you will about the man, those numbers simply do not lie. He is, and always will be, one of Australia’s greatest players. Rain is around in Sydney - a venue notorious for problematic weather - so let’s hope that the series, and Warner, get the send-off they deserve.

Tea: Elgar the elder leaves on a high

Another International opening batter is departing the Test arena this week with South Africa’s Dean Elgar playing his final Test against India, which also starts on Wednesday. The Proteas absolutely obliterated their visitors in the first Test in Centurion meaning Rohit Sharma's side will not be able to win the two-match series - something they have never done in South Africa. They might be rueing not angling for a longer contest.

Temba Bavuma’s injury has meant that former captain Elgar has returned to leadership duties in his last match. That in itself feels like a fitting tribute to a man who has been a rock in an era of South Africa Test cricket marked by increasing instability in terms of player availability and performance. 

Stoic and balanced as ever, Elgar is taking the match just like any other. "It’s business as usual for us. It’s a massive test for us, obviously our highlight Test match of the year, the New Year’s Test at Newlands and it doesn’t get much bigger and better than against really tough opposition in India,” he told a press conference on Tuesday.

At 36, you can forgive him for hanging up his boots but his epic, arguably match-winning, knock of 185 in the first Test proved he might yet have more to give. At the time of writing, Elgar needs less than 200 runs to surpass Mark Boucher as South Africa’s seventh-highest run-getter in Tests and is only 137 runs off becoming South Africa’s third most-productive opener ever. In the 85 Tests before his last, he amassed 5,331 runs at an average just under 38 with 14 centuries. Hats off to you, Dean!

As a red-ball specialist, Elgar probably would have been invited to tour New Zealand in February if he hadn’t chosen to retire, possibly even to lead the side. Controversially, South Africa have selected a squad including seven uncapped players, with an uncapped captain in Neil Brand for the two-Test series.

For many, this was a shock but it was to be expected as the tour was long scheduled to collide with South Africa’s IPL-backed T20 franchise league - the SA20. The centrally contracted players must appear in the league if picked up in the draft, meaning the squad is comprised of not just fringe players but some who were nowhere near Test selection. Keegan Petersen and David Bedingham are the only two players who are currently playing India to be included while there are a couple of capped players - such as talented paceman Duanne Olivier - who return to a side that is essentially an A team.

New Zealand

Cricket South Africa have defended the move as a consequence of scheduling out of their hands, but it sets a dangerous precedent. With many of the lesser Test-playing nations frankly waning in the longest form of the game, sending second-string sides could become a norm as both players and national bodies look to prioritise white-ball opportunities. With New Zealand likely at full strength, it should be a comfortable first-ever series win for them. Either way, it will feel like a loss for the game, though, and could mark the beginning of a worrying trend.



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