Treacherous pitch halts Indian charge

Umpires call off play on third day as uneven bounce rattle batsmen
Last Updated 26 January 2018, 19:22 IST

After being pilloried for their inability to negotiate pace, bounce, seam and swing, India eventually found a way to give the hosts a taste of their own medicine towards the fag end of the three-Test series.

On what is admittedly a treacherous track, India displayed plenty of guts, character and application to get on top of the third Test but it would be a real shame if they are denied the win for a situation for which they are not responsible at all.

After multiple hits to many batsmen from either side and myriad inspections of the pitch by on-field umpires, the third day of the final Test was called off amidst dramatic scenes at the Wanderers on Friday. Understandably, India, who were smelling a win, were disappointed with the match officials' decision as uncertainty hangs over the continuation of the match on Saturday. While India were ready to continue with play, South Africa didn't confirm their stand.

For the record, India, overnight 49/1, went on to post 247 all out in 80.1 overs to set South Africa a target of 241, a significant score on a difficult pitch against a five-pronged visiting attack. In reply, the home team was 17 for the loss of opener Aiden Markram in 8.3 overs when the stumps were drawn for the day after hectic parleys between officials and respective team managements.      

In the first two sessions, many Indian batsmen had taken several blows on their bodies but the umpires – Aleem Dar and Ian Gould -- didn't stop the play despite repeated observation of the pitch. When South Africa began their chase, Dean Elgar was hit three times at different parts of his body – once on his wrist by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, once on his ribs by Mohammad Shami and finally when the southpaw was struck on his helmet by a Jasprit Bumrah snorter, the umpires held a mid-turf conference with match referee Andy Pycroft following which the day was called off.    

On a surface  where the batsmen were more worried about getting injured than being dismissed, India would believe they have put enough runs on the board to pull one back and if the fourth day's play doesn't resume, they have every reason to believe that they have been robbed of a win.    

Virat Kohli (41, 79b, 6x4) played another innings of substance, M Vijay (25, 127b, 1x4) left more balls travel to the wicketkeeper than he poked at -- an essential ingredient missing from his game till this innings – and Ajinkya Rahane (48, 68b, 6x4) justified the all-round clamour for his inclusion with a gem of an innings that can perhaps be the difference between India winning and South Africa losing. And it would be almost criminal not to acknowledge the significant contributions from No 8 and 9 -- Bhuvneshwar Kumar (33) and Mohammad Shami (27), who between them added more runs than the top four.

Earlier, K L Rahul failed to kick on again, unable to negotiate a wicked delivery from Vernon Philander. Cheteshwar Pujara too received a brute of a delivery from Morne Morkel to get out cheaply. At 57 for three India were in a spot but Vijay displayed characteristic patience and temperament to stay put at the crease. He received some painful blows but never did he flinch away from the challenge. India could have left for lunch for the loss of only Rahul and Pujara but Vijay couldn't keep out Kagiso Rabada's stinging yorker which turned out to be the last ball of that session.

After resumption, Kohli received an unplayable off-cutter from Rabada. Rahane by then had begun asserting his class in these conditions and showed what a difference he would have made in the first two Tests. Pandya couldn't stick with Rahane for too long, but Bhuvneshwar followed up his 30 in the first innings with another cameo. Both Rahane and Bhuvneshwar were reprieved once each but you need such luck in these types of wickets where every ball has a wicket written on it.

(Published 26 January 2018, 10:44 IST)

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