Elgar asked umpires about 'potentially unsafe' Gabba surface before Australia sewed up two-day Test victory

By Sports Desk December 18, 2022

Dean Elgar raised concerns about the condition of the pitch at The Gabba in the closing stages of Australia's six-wicket win in the first Test against South Africa.

The hosts secured victory on day two in what was the second-shortest Test in the country after the same two sides played out what remains the shortest Test in history in 1932 in Melbourne.

A green pitch offered considerable bounce and movement, which led to wickets falling regularly as the match was over after a total of just 144.2 overs.

After a first innings score of only 152, South Africa limited Australia to 218, before capitulating with the bat again and posting just 99 in their second innings, setting the hosts a target of a mere 34 to win.

Even then, four Australia wickets fell as Kagiso Rabada (4-13) tore through their top order, though the target was reached in large thanks to the bounce of the pitch, with the top scorer being the 19 extras that mostly came from bouncers that flew over wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne and raced to the boundary.

"I did ask the umpires when [Rabada] got [Travis] Head out down leg, I said 'how long does it go on for until it potentially is unsafe?'," South Africa captain Elgar said.

"And then [Anrich] Nortje was bowling those short ones that were flying over our heads. I know the game is dead and buried, it was never to try and change or put a halt to the game. That's where the umpire's discretion comes into play, not us as players. I am definitely not going to say it was safe or unsafe.

"There were only a handful of runs left so I thought maybe they thought I was just trying to take the mickey," he added, having not received any response from the officials. "But it's not a bad reference point going forward to get a reply.

"You've got to ask yourself the question – is that a good advertisement for our format? Thirty-four wickets in two days – a pretty one-sided affair, I would say.

"The nature of it, how it started to play with some seriously steep bounce with the old ball, you are kind of on a hiding to nothing as a batting unit. I don't think it was a very good Test wicket, no."

Elgar's opposite number Pat Cummins, who took 5-42 in the second innings, felt the surface was well short of concerning levels.

"No way, it was fine," he said. "Sideways movement, there was a little bit of up and down bounce, but it was fine. There were no balls jumping off a length or anything like that.

"It was certainly tricky. Two days probably isn't ideal… personally, I don't mind it if the groundsman err on the greener side occasionally. [I've] played a lot of Tests where they've erred on the flatter side. I think it was the same for both teams."

Day two also saw Mitchell Starc take his 300th Test wicket when he bowled Rassie van der Dussen with a trademark inswinger, and Cummins paid tribute to his team-mate.

"You can talk about strike rate, average, all those things," he said. "[But] the longevity you've got to have to get 300 as a fast bowler, the injuries you've got to overcome… you've seen it all by the time you get 300.

"I've seen him mending a lot of scars, bruises and blisters in the change room. You see the toil behind the wickets and performances. It puts him right in the upper echelon of great Aussie bowlers. Now he's nipping the ball a bit more. I reckon his next 300 will come pretty quickly."

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