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Wanderers dodgy pitch: Final Test rears up and bounces back

Umpires call off players early on Day 3 after deeming the pitch unsafe to play, India vs South Africa Test to resume as normal on Day 4.

Written by Sandeep Dwivedi | Johannesburg | Updated: January 27, 2018 9:21 am
Dean Elgar after getting hit by a Bumrah bouncer

The two umpires officiating the third and final Test between India and South Africa have decided that Day 4 will start on schedule Saturday, after play was called off 19 minutes early on the third day at the Wanderers when opener Dean Elgar was hit on the visor of his helmet by a rising delivery from pacer Jasprit Bumrah.

At tea, umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar, along with match referee Andy Pycroft, had called representatives of the two teams to explain that they would stop play if they deemed the pitch to be dangerous for batsmen. The trigger for this meeting had been the first two sessions that saw several Indian batsmen getting hit by balls that rose alarmingly on a day of intense drama on and off the field. However, what seemed to be shaping into another cricket crisis between the two teams, who have a history of mutual mistrust when it comes to pitches, was averted late at night in Johannesburg.

It all started when South Africa, chasing 241 in the fourth innings of this engrossing Test, were 17 for one. At that stage, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Bumrah were making the South African batsmen jump, fend and struggle, with an excited slip cordon consisting of India’s top-order batsmen applauding them. Captain Virat Kohli and his men, after suffering body blows all day, were giving it back to the hosts.

But that’s when that ball from Bumrah hit Elgar. When the umpires stopped play, Kohli threw up his arms, had a long chat with Dar and reluctantly left the field. The Indian team manager Sunil Subramanium later revealed that the side wanted to play since they thought they had one foot inside the door, with a rare away win on the horizon.

On the dressing room balcony, coach Ravi Shastri, too, looked agitated. Kohli and his South African counterpart Faf du Plessis then moved to the match referee’s room. While the high-level meeting was still on, representatives of both teams presented their case to the media.

There were several versions about the length of that ball from Bumrah. The South Africans said it had taken off from good length and that made the pitch dangerous to play on. The Indians didn’t agree, calling it a regular short ball, like so many others in the game.

The day’s top-scorer Ajinkya Rahane called the pitch challenging, not dangerous. “You cannot call it a dangerous wicket just because Elgar got hit. Most of the batsmen got hit, even (Hashim) Amla got hit in first innings… Vijay, (Cheteshwar) Pujara batted well in the first innings, Virat batted well, they got hit. We never complained about it being a dangerous wicket. We just said it is a challenging wicket. They prepared this wicket, we never told them to prepare a track like this,” he said.

Indian manager Subramanium said: “There has been exaggerated bounce on this wicket but the ball to Elgar was not the one that cut (back) alarmingly. This is what has been happening the last three days. So there was nothing new.” In contrast, South African manager Mohammad Moosajee said Elgar was done in by the spicy wicket. When the home team manager was asked about the most-talked ball of the day, he said, “The ball that hit Dean Elgar shot off a good length.”

To add to spice to the debate was commentator Sunil Gavaskar. “The pitch is challenging. In case the Indians were batting and they had walked away, they would have been seen as sissies,” he said. For now, the crisis has been averted, but the Wanderer Test is certainly on the boil.

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  1. S
    Jan 27, 2018 at 12:07 pm
    do not blame the pitch blame these overpaid and under rated Indian players led by this Sardarji gangster Kohli
    1. R
      Jan 27, 2018 at 12:06 pm
      The pitch has behaved similarly throughout the game. If the umpires felt the pitch was dangerous, they should have called off play on day 1. Even on Day 3, the pitch behaved virulently in the morning with Pujara, Vijay and Kohli ( all far more competent players than Elgar) getting hit repeatedly. Because India were 100 for 4 and the match was looking decidely in favour of SA, the umpires allowed the game to go on. Now, there is an attempt to protect SA from what looks like a certain defeat. The COA running BCCI have been kowtowing to ICC manipulation for far too long. They should to show the slightest bit of spine by telling the ICC that they will be prepared to pull the Indian team out of the tour if this type of unfair unethical practices continue.
      1. shabir ahmed
        Jan 27, 2018 at 9:55 am
        After third day’s play test match at Wanderers is definitely tilted towards India after a wonderful knock of 48 by Rahane and gutsy innings by Kohli,Vijay and Bhuvneshwar.But now there is more talk about the pitch than end result,some saying it is difficult but not dangerous and others claiming it dangerous.I have been watching the match from ball one and think that the pitch is very difficult with exaggerated sideways movement and uneven bounce but not dangerous to the extent to call off the match.The pitch has behaved in this fashion throughout and day three was no exception.The match will start on scheduled time on day four but may not go full length as the umpires seem to be very sceptical about the pitch.Rahane has once again proved that he is a far better test player even in hostile conditions than Rohit Sharma and leaving him out in first two matches was a big mistake by Kohli.
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