Elgar relied on grit not skill during Proteas recovery

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Dean Elgar says he had to rely on his ability to grind it out as opposed to natural talent to help revive South Africa on day one of the first Test against New Zealand.

The Proteas were reeling on 22-3 in Dunedin as Stephen Cook (3) Hashim Amla (1) and JP Duminy (1) all failed with the bat following a fine spell from Neil Wagner (2-59).

However, opener Elgar made the most of a reprieve when dropped by wicketkeeper BJ Watling on 36 to score a gritty 128 not out and help South Africa to 229-4 at stumps, with stands of 126 and 81 with Faf du Plessis (52) and Temba Bavuma (38 not out) key to the tourists' fightback.

Reflecting on his day at the crease, Elgar said: "It was one of the tougher days of Test cricket so far in my career.

"I nicked it and BJ dropped it and happy days. I'm sitting with a smile on my face at the end of day one.

"We were looking at about 250-280 at tea time and now, being in a good position of not losing a wicket in the last session, we can re-adjust. I think maybe 450 on that wicket.

"I'm not very talented and free-scoring like others guys are, so you've got to use your advantages and that's obviously my ability to gut it out and grind it."

NewZealand opted to omit vice-captain Tim Southee from the team to accommodate an extra spinner.

"I was surprised because he is their trump card," Elgar said of that decision. "He and [Trent] Boult have been phenomenal for New Zealand, in Test and one-day cricket so I was surprised to see him not playing."

Explaining the decision not to go with Southee, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said: "We didn't think there was a lot in the wicket and we needed one of the two seamers to be able to create things when there's not a lot on offer, and Neil [Wagner] has done that consistently over the last few years. 

"So that was relatively straightforward. It's certainly something [captain] Kane Williamson, myself and senior players spent some time tossing over and I think no matter which way we went it would have been a difficult decision. 

"Whoever missed out would have felt a bit miffed."