Both were named in South Africa’s squad on Tuesday for the Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates next month – but in the XI there can be only one.
This tale of two players started in Brisbane in November when Duminy snapped his Achilles during the team’s warm-down after the opening day of their series against Australia.
Faf du Plessis stepped into the breach in Adelaide and defied the Australians for more than a day to score an undefeated century that saved the match.
When Jacques Rudolph was dropped for the third match of that series, in Perth, Elgar got his chance. He did not take it as emphatically as Du Plessis, but after four innings he had a Test century.
It was scored against New Zealand at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth in January. In his four Test innings since then, Elgar has scored between seven and 27.
Duminy’s long road back to health ended in the ODI and T20 series in Sri Lanka last month. He made a century and a half-century in five innings in the ODIs, and in the T20s he was the leading run-scorer on either side and topped South Africa’s averages.
But Duminy has not batted in a Test since August last year, whereas Elgar was in the mix throughout South Africa’s most recent series, against Pakistan at home in February.
Which brings us back to the question: how to choose between two middle-order players, both left-handed, both with their averages pegged in the 30s, both in their 20s and at similar stages of their careers.
Asked if Duminy or Elgar was ahead in their personal pecking order, selection convenor Andrew Hudson said: “Duminy did well in Sri Lanka so we’re happy to retain him.”
Nothing gained there. What would Barry Richards do?
“Don’t be too harsh on Elgar; he’s a very committed player,” Richards said. “But I’d pick Duminy.”
In the field, the predatory Duminy has the edge over most of his team-mates, Elgar included.
But a century scored in the pitched battle of a series-deciding Test in Australia tops everything. Duminy has been there and done that – at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2008-09 – and the Test shirt should be his.