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India vs South Africa: Finely balanced Wanderers Test takes dangerous turn

A deteriorating track began to show signs unpredictable bounce early on Day 3 of the third Test as batsmen from both Indian cricket team and South Africa cricket team suffered blows. The final straw for umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar was when a delivery from Jasprit Bumrah rose sharply and thudded into the grille of Dean Elgar’s helmet.

cricket Updated: Jan 26, 2018 23:46 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
South Africa vs India,SA vs IND,Dean Elgar
South Africa cricket team’s Dean Elgar gets hit by a ball during the third day of the third Test against Indian cricket team at the Wanderers cricket ground on Friday.(AFP)

The third cricket Test in Johannesburg was hanging in the balance on Friday -- not just because India raised hopes of a hard-fought win over South Africa but because the umpires were forced to halt play on the third evening due to a dangerous Wanderers pitch. (India vs South Africa Day 3 highlights | Scorecard)

A deteriorating track with widening cracks began to show signs of uneven and unpredictable bounce early in day as batsmen from both team suffered blows from an all-pace attack. A chunk of the pitch’s surface was uprooted in the 35th over when India were 84/3 before lunch.

The final straw for umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar was when a delivery from Jasprit Bumrah rose sharply and thudded into the grille of South African opener Dean Elgar’s helmet. Hosts were 17-1 chasing 241 when play was called off, and India seemed to hold the advantage with batting becoming increasingly difficult.

The TV commentators seemed of one mind in their criticism of the playing surface. Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar and former South Africa skipper Shaun Pollock had raised concerns about it on Thursday. West Indies pace legend Michael Holding gave a damning verdict on Friday: “I will give this pitch two out of, not 10, but 100!”

Kohli was seen making a point to umpire Dar when play was halted, before ICC Match Referee Andy Pycroft of Zimbabwe rushed onto the field to confer with the umpires and the captains. “I don’t think it is a dangerous wicket,” vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who made a crucial 48 in India’s second innings, told reporters.

India could justifiably think they have been robbed of a win because they braved two innings on this pitch and batted 80 overs on Friday in tough conditions.

South Africa manager Mohammad Moosajee, who said he and Indian counterpart Sunil Subramanium were called to Pycroft’s room at tea, said the hosts would leave it to the officials to decide if continuing was too dangerous.

Officials later confirmed play would start as scheduled on Saturday.

India’s fighting performance also left fans wondering what might have been had Rahane and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who scored a vital 33 after taking three wickets in the first innings, had been chosen for all three matches.

Rahane was not picked for the first two Tests despite enjoying the best average among the current team overseas while Bhuvneshwar Kumar was dropped for the second Test at Centurion despite his six-wicket haul in the first game at Cape Town.

First Published: Jan 26, 2018 23:44 IST