Rivalry that goes back to schooldays

Dean Elgar
Dean Elgar

Dean Elgar versus Neil Wagner is a contest on many levels – batsman v bowler‚ left-hander v leftarmer‚ determination v danger.

Once it was also about smalltown kid v city slicker‚ St Dominic’s versus Affies‚ Welkom v Pretoria and Free State v Northerns. “It used to be pretty feisty‚” Elgar said yesterday. “There’s a lot of Afrikaans people in those two teams and it was pretty heated.

“It was all in good spirit and I guess we were all playing for careers we never thought we could have, back then.”

They have those careers now‚ and tomorrow the contest will be about South Africa v New Zealand in the first test at Dunedin’s University Oval.

Welkom-born‚ raised and schooled Elgar will open the batting for South Africa.

Pretoria-born‚ raised and schooled Wagner will take the new ball for New Zealand.

“I haven’t really had a lot of battles with him‚ but in school we did‚” Elgar said.

“He seems to have come on in leaps and bounds for New Zealand and it seems like he’s leading their attack with regard to aggression – there’s a bit of South African mentality coming out there.”

Wagner returned the compliment: “We get along really well off the field, but we’ve had a lot of battles on the field as young boys‚ from school cricket onwards‚ and we hated playing against each other.

“I do like sitting afterwards and having a beer with him but‚ yeah‚ we hate playing against each other.

“I guess it’s part and parcel of the job.”

At first-class level‚ Elgar v Wagner has been a contest three times: in a provincial match in Bloemfontein in November 2006‚ and in tests in South Africa in January 2013 and August last year.

In none of those games did Wagner dismiss Elgar‚ although whether he inflicted the injury that forced Elgar to retire hurt in the first innings of the provincial game could not be established.

Wagner did not bowl to Elgar at Kingsmead in August‚ but he conceded 25 runs off 29 balls to him at St George’s Park in 2013 – when Elgar scored an unbeaten 103, hit three Wagner bouncers for four and hammered an overpitched delivery for six.

But Elgar batted at No 7 in that match and first faced Wagner when the second new ball was worn.

That will not be the case this week‚ when Elgar will take guard at the top of the order and can expect to have to deal with Wagner at first change.

To hear Elgar tell it‚ that will not be as tall an order as if he had to contend with Vernon Philander :“I’m glad he’s on my side and I don’t have to face him with the new ball – that’s a blessing.” Wagner is returning after breaking a finger. Clearly‚ they make them tough in Pretoria. Good luck telling that to anyone from Welkom.

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