There was drama on the field well before the game started on Friday, when it was announced that the match would have a delayed start because the “pitch was unfit for play.” In fact, it was a rather bizarre situation at the Wanderers, the kind of situation, which, if it had happened in India, would have resulted in far more fuss and outrage than happened here on the day.
Basically, what happened was this. It has been baking hot in Joburg over the past few days, a kind of sapping, scorching heat that dried up everything, a heat that had caused the cracks in the pitch to widen. The groundsman, Chris Scott, was worried that the wicket had become too dry and, according to a statement by Gauteng Cricket Board CEO, Alan Kourie, that “it would break up quite badly before the 4 th and 5th day”.
Because of this, he put wet Hessian (a kind of jute covering which is then covered by the regular covers) on the wicket overnight. According to Kourie, when the covers were removed in the morning, it was found that there was a lot more moisture than anticipated, resulting in several wet spots on the wicket, which caused the delay in play.
Incidentally, Scott's own pitch preparation report says he was not satisfied with the state of the pitch preparation and points out that “overnight sweating caused by my applying damp hessian has caused the wet spots. This will delay the start of play. However, once dry, I will be satisfied with the pitch”.
“Sweating”, by the way, leaves moisture on the track and any damp patches are likely to liven up the wicket, giving the bowlers a big advantage if the match does happen to start under those conditions (which has happened with a couple of Ranji games in India).
Anyway, the point here is not so much that the match was delayed but why were damp spots allowed to come on the pitch. Interestingly, anticipating criticism, Kourie has defended Scott, saying the GCB were “100 per cent” behind him as he made a decision he thought was correct.