Cape Town – Crumbling already on day one to levels more traditionally experienced nearer the back end of a Test match, the pitch for the opening scrap between India and South Africa has come under early attack from locally-based critics.
National selector and former Proteas batsman Ashwell Prince, a guest in SuperSport’s studio coverage of the first Test on Thursday, said “abnormal deterioration” was being experienced in Mohali for such infant stages of a scheduled five-day contest and that the strip “seems underprepared”.
Prince suggested it looked too much as though it “might only have been rolled in the middle parts” and was holding up far too soon.
“On day one you should at least be able to play your strokes. We’ve played on plenty of trying Indian pitches before, but this one appears tougher.”
The world’s No 1-ranked side had negotiated their way tentatively to 28 for two after a demanding 20 overs, in reply to India’s 201 on an eventful day when 12 wickets toppled.
Under normal circumstances, that would still be considered advantage to South Africa, but as another former SA batsman, HD Ackerman, pointed out, the Indian might feel they command a slight edge given the way the surface was beginning to increasingly behave.
“It is not a good cricket pitch,” he added.
Commentating from the venue as the third session drew to a close, former national captain Kepler Wessels said “day four or five puffs of dust” were already evident.
Quite possibly linked to the awkwardness of the batting conditions was the fact that in the Indian innings, which only lasted 68 overs after they had won a vital toss, part-time SA left-arm spinner Dean Elgar bagged rosiest figures for the Proteas of four for 22 in eight overs – his first-class best.
He nevertheless earned praise from ex-SA coach Eric Simons, who said he had bowled suitably slowly to “allow the ball to do things”.
There were plenty of instances of rash dismissals in the Indian knock, and both Proteas batsman dismissed before the close, Stiaan van Zyl and Faf du Plessis, were undone while not offering strokes, so it might be premature to brand the strip a rank “minefield” just yet.
But watch this space, if I were you: things ought to only get more treacherous and the subject of further critical scrutiny at the crease.
Locals might want to tear up already their tickets for day five ... if they were daft enough to purchase them.
Early signs point to a possible three-dayer, even if the lottery looks pretty interestingly poised at this point.
The Proteas could have their backs seriously to the wall if they can’t manage at least a slight first-dig lead ...
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