India had enough to think about before Wasim Jaffer gloved a looping catch to second slip at Newlands on Friday. A moment later, many minds boggled, most notably those of the umpires.
Jaffer's dismissal reduced India to six for two, and it prompted Sachin Tendulkar to pick up his bat and head down the stairs leading from the dressing room to the boundary.
Tendulkar never completed his journey. He was halted by the fourth umpire, Murray Brown, and told he would not be permitted to take guard for another five minutes. The reason? Tendulkar had spent 18 minutes off the field on Thursday, and he had repaid just 13 minutes of that debt when Jaffer was dismissed.
As Brown spoke to Tendulkar, VVS Laxman was enthroned on the toilet and Sourav Ganguly had yet to think about pulling on his flannels.
Quite what happened after Tendulkar re-appeared at the dressing room door, has been lost in the chaos that surely followed. Dressing rooms aren't the tidiest places at the best of times, and when panic breaks loose they can easily resemble the aftermath of a car accident on a busy freeway. Without the blood, of course.
Has Laxman ever been caught with his pants down quite so literally? Has Ganguly ever strapped on a pair of pads quite so frantically? Did he remember his box? More pertinently, why had the teams had not been made aware earlier of Tendulkar's situation?
The South Africans had questions of their own. “How does this timed-out thing work?” Shaun Pollock asked umpire Darryl Harper as the minutes ticked by with no sign of an incoming batsman.
Harper then engaged Graeme Smith in a discussion, imploring him not to appeal for timed-out in the interests of the “spirit of the game”. Smith agreed. Ganguly finally took guard some eight minutes after Jaffer fell to that gloved catch.
At lunch, Harper said the umpires “would not have entertained” an appeal for timed-out. How could they when it was their fault that India were late in replacing Jaffer?
Whose responsibility was it to explain the restriction on Tendulkar to the players?
“It is our job, but we forgot today,” Asad Rauf admitted.
What might the South Africans have made of this shoddy bit of officiating? They were entitled to lodge an appeal, after all, and how would the explanation from above have been received by them in the heat of battle?
Harper deserves our gratitude for putting out the fire before it caught alight, and for ensuring that fairness prevailed.
It's good to know that not all Australian umpires with his initials have the people skills of a frustrated traffic warden.