Dean Elgar scored his 6th Test ton    Getty Images
Dean Elgar scored his 6th Test ton Getty Images

Opening batsman Dean Elgar battled his way to a career-best century on the first day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at Newlands on Monday, then predicted that South Africa’s fast bowlers could thrive on a grassy pitch. Elgar made 129, his sixth Test century, before falling to the second new ball. South Africa were 297 for six at the close after being sent in to bat. “It’s my fourth Test here and definitely the most grass I’ve seen. Against a sub-continent team we definitely don’t want to make it comfortable for them,” he said. Elgar said he saw no problem in South Africa preparing pitches to negate the opposition’s spin bowling strength, as happened in Port Elizabeth when South Africa won the first Test by 206 runs.

“In saying that, it’s a good cricket wicket,” he added. “If you apply yourself with the bat or the ball you are going to get success. Port Elizabeth was also a good cricket wicket.” He said the pitch offered plenty of help to the bowlers early on. “It’s definitely a new ball wicket and it’s going to be that nature throughout the game. When they took the second new ball there was a lot of seam movement.” Elgar said he looked forward to seeing South Africa’s new ball bowlers, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott, against the Sri Lankan batsmen.

Full Cricket Scorecard: South Africa vs Sri Lanka 2nd Test at Cape Town

“I’m glad they are in my side and not against me. They’re bowling very well together and if they keep doing the basics that they have been doing, it’s a wicket that’s going to bring the best out of them.” Left-handed Elgar batted imperturbably while wickets fell at the other end, with Sri Lanka’s seam bowlers taking advantage of a well-grassed pitch and overcast sky.

Stephen Cook, man of the match in South Africa’s 206-run win in the first Test in Port Elizabeth, was out to the fourth ball of the match before a run had been scored. Two more wickets fell to teenage fast bowler Lahiru Kumara with the total on 66 and South Africa were still struggling at 169 for five when Elgar was joined by Quinton de Kock. Elgar and de Kock shared a 103-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

With the sun coming out during the afternoon, South Africa were getting on top when Elgar pushed at a ball from Suranga Lakmal and was caught behind. It was a rare false stroke in a 230-ball innings which included 15 fours. It was Elgar’s sixth Test century and two runs better than his previous highest Test score, made against Australia in Perth in November.

De Kock was unbeaten on 68 at the close. On 41, he reached 1000 Test runs in 23 innings. Only four South Africans, led by former captain Graeme Smith on 17, have reached four figures in fewer innings. “Quinny’s one of those freaks of world cricket at the moment,” said Elgar of his fellow left-hander. “He puts the bowlers under a lot of pressure. You wipe your eyes and he’s got fifty.”

Kumara, 19, who replaced Dushmantha Chameera in one of two changes from the side that lost in Port Elizabeth, took three for 86 and bowled with pace and aggression. His first victim was Hashim Amla, bowled between bat and pad by an in-swinger for 29. Five balls later JP Duminy gloved a legside catch to a diving wicketkeeper Kusal Mendis. Later he had Temba Bavuma caught at deep square leg. Team-mate Upul Tharanga, who replaced Kusal Perera in a second change in the Sri Lankan team, said: “He bowled well. He’s only 19 and he can bowl faster.”

Tharanga acknowledged that the Sri Lankan batsmen would have to work hard against the new ball. “The new ball will move quite a bit but if we can get through that we are in the game.” First, though, he admitted, Sri Lanka would have to take early wickets on Tuesday to wrap up the South African innings. Sri Lanka were hampered in mid-afternoon when opening bowler Nuwan Pradeep left the field with what was described as “tightness in his leg” and was unable to take the second new ball.