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No Mercy

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Proteas won't be pulling punches in series finale

Dean Elgar

Far fewer demands (from the media in particular), the fact that he is playing at home, and that the series has already also been won has made Dean Elgar’s second experience of being the Proteas’ stand-in skipper a far more relaxed one.

The first time was something of an ordeal. It was an immensely proud moment for Elgar at Lord’s in 2017 to be sure, but it was hectic too. It was a series opener against England, it was Lord’s and it was a South African team that had been stitched together.

Besides Faf du Plessis, absent for that match while his wife was giving birth, there was also no Dale Steyn and a couple of senior players were carrying poor form.

“The whole experience in England was a lot more chaotic,” Elgar reflected yesterday ahead of the third and final Castle Lager Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers.

At Lord’s, Elgar had to do a radio interview and a separate TV engagement before conducting the formal press conference with a far larger media delegation than was present at the Wanderers yesterday. Then he had to pose with two trophies in front of a six foot zebra alongside Joe Root.

“I remember running around all over the show at Lord’s, then doing the presser, with a lot more reporters, and that was quite intimidating. I’ve learned a lot from those experiences,” Elgar said yesterday.

Just one TV interview and an 11-minute press conference were all the demands he faced after training yesterday morning.

“This time around it’s a little less stressed due to the nature of the series and the venue. This time I really want to take it in, I’m not sure when I’ll do this again, so I want to really enjoy the experience.”

A different outcome to the Lord’s one would add to that enjoyment and Elgar has stressed that with the squad this week.

“We’ve got the series in the bag (but) there is still a massive goal for us, to drive home that final nail, which we deserve to do; we’ve played good cricket in this series.

We’ve learned

“That was the big message I gave the squad (on Wednesday); even though we’ve got the series in the bag, we’ve been in a similar position before and let it slip against India, which hurt a lot, and hopefully we’ve learned from that.

“I was blunt and straightforward with the squad; if there is any complacency within our camp, we need to iron that crease out right now, we have a massive goal and that is to win here 3-0 and win the summer 5-0 (including two Tests against Sri Lanka), and being at home is a massive advantage for us.”

Since losing to England in 2016, South Africa have won six series in a row on home soil, with last summer’s pair of triumphs against India and Australia the highlights.

The Proteas swept the series 3-0 the last time Pakistan toured here in 2013, although Elgar remains wary that the tourists are still keen to prove a point.

“They’ve played good cricket, they’ve been hurt a bit in this series, but we are never going to give the opposition anything on a plate. I’m sure they will come back, they will have some huff and puff, especially for the first day, but if we stick to the game plans we will blow them out of the water.”

South Africa will in all likelihood stick with the four-pronged pace attack that did duty at Newlands; although when the suspended Faf du Plessis arrived at the ground ahead of training yesterday and inspected the pitch, there was talk about its dryness and thus the possible inclusion of spinner Keshav Maharaj in the starting team.

The weather for the first three days of the Test is set to be fair, while the pitch, according to Elgar, looks a good one that will offer a more even battle between bat and ball than SuperSport Park and Newlands.

This may be a game that goes into a fifth day.

Meanwhile, opener Aiden Markram, who bruised his right thigh in the second Test, was declared fit to start after coming through a fitness test yesterday, and it was confirmed that Zubayr Hamza will make his debut in place of Du Plessis and is likely to bat at No 5.