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Devil Wanderers pitch holds up resurgent India in 3rd Test vs South Africa

Ajinkya Rahane’s 48 as well as some handy contributions from the lower order saw Indian cricket team set South Africa cricket team a stiff target of 241 on Day 3 of the 3rd Test before Dean Elgar got hit on the helmet by a short delivery from Jasprit Bumrah that made officials end the day early.

cricket Updated: Jan 26, 2018 23:20 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
Virat Kohli,India vs South Africa,South Africa vs India
Indian cricket team batsman Ajinkya Rahane plays a shot during the third day of the third test against South Africa cricket team at the Wanderers cricket ground in Johannesburg on Friday. (AFP)

A captivating finale to the third Test was ruined by a call from the supervisors of the game as ICC Match Referee Andy Pycroft stopped play citing a dangerous pitch after South Africa opener Dean Elgar was hit on his helmet by a rank short delivery from Jasprit Bumrah. When play was stopped early on Friday evening, South Africa were 17/1, needing 224 runs more to win. (India vs South Africa Day 3 highlights | Scorecard)

But the Test would only go forward only after Pycroft gives the go-ahead. At the time of going to press, the fate of this Test was still being decided at the match referee’s room.

India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane declared they have no problem playing but the message from the South Africa camp hasn’t been that firm. If the match is called off citing a dubious pitch, the controversy would take centre-stage and take focus off India’s poor batting performances and selection follies.

Interestingly, there wasn’t much alarm when Indian batsmen were braving chin music.

Cheteshwar Pujara was left grimacing after being struck on the abdomen. Murali Vijay was hit on his ribs, groin and on his left hand. Ajinkya Rahane was hit on his elbow and Hardik Pandya on his hand. India took those blows gamely because they knew that’s what they are expected to do on tours. Also, this was a golden opportunity to pull one back on the Proteas after losing the series.

Irrespective of how this Test ends, India can be proud they gave it back to South Africa on an pitch that was alien to them. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, controversially left out at Centurion, played another gem of an innings. He supported Rahane in a 55-run partnership that deflated South Africa before stitching a 35-run stand with Mohammed Shami to propel India to a challenging total.

Nervous in the face of India’s attacking cricket, South African fielders dropped Kumar and Rahane at gully and deep point in consecutive overs. The extras count had stretched to 29, including 12 wides.

But India’s counterattack started with who else but Virat Kohli. Having established himself as the best batsman in this team, Kohli is also raising expectations by playing the saviour’s role in almost every Test, although it hasn’t led to a win yet in this series.

Superb technique helped Kohli plant his foot as close as possible to the line of the delivery. Anything slightly fuller and Kohli caressed it through covers. That approach fetched him four of his six boundaries, till Kagiso Rabada’s incoming delivery brushed Kohli’s thigh pad and clattered into his stumps. Rabada’s brilliance had come through earlier too when he unleashed an unplayable yorker to bowl Murali Vijay at the stroke of lunch.

Till that point, Vijay was India’s sponge, absorbing blows, getting beaten on countless occasions but holding fort. Playing out 127 deliveries on such a pitch is as good as it gets. Then there was Rahane who had a strike rate of over 100 at one point with cover drives flowing from his bat.

An exceptional sight was how Rahane slapped Morne Morkel through extra cover and winked at Kohli once the ball had crossed the boundary. Not only did it exude confidence but also the belief that said ‘if you can, I can too.’ That confidence permeated into India’s game before the guardians played spoilsport.

First Published: Jan 26, 2018 16:56 IST