Johannesburg – At the start of day four of the third Test
between the Proteas and India, nobody was giving the hosts a chance.
With an hour-long delay due to wet weather and immense
uncertainty surrounding the quality of the Wanderers wicket, it wasn’t even
clear how long play would go on for.
Yet, two sessions later, South Africa are very much in with
a chance to win this Test match.
Dean Elgar (61*) and Hashim Amla, resuming on 17/1 at the start of
the day, combined for one of the most courageous 119-run partnerships you will
By the time Amla was out for 52, clipping Ishant Sharma to
mid-wicket, he had batted for 240 minutes with Elgar in a stand that lasted 306
That partnership had laid the foundation for what looked a
likely South African win, but India got the prized wicket of AB de Villiers (6)
just before the end of the second session when he pushed at a Jasprit Bumrah
delivery only to be taken at gully.
At tea, South Africa were 136/3, needing another 105
runs for victory and a 3-0 series whitewash. If they pull that off, it will be
the third-highest run chase Wanderers has ever seen in Test cricket and will
surely go down as one of the most memorable in South Africa’s history.
It has been a simply remarkable Test match, laced with drama
from the very beginning, and it now looks set to provide a thrilling finale.
There is no doubt that the wicket has behaved better than it
did towards the end of play on Friday when umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould
deemed it too dangerous to continue, but India have bowled poorly.
The wicket is still causing continuous problems with its
lateral movement and variable bounce, but Elgar and Amla defended for their
While the ball beat the bat countless times, the dogged
South African pair kept their focus throughout, even with the odd delivery
spitting up onto the gloves.
When Elgar tried to leave a Hardik Pandya delivery but
instead found a gap between the slips for his seventh boundary, he had brought
up his half-century off 153 balls.
It was Elgar’s 10th 50 in Test cricket, but none
will have come harder than this.
The 30-year-old has gone from a concussion test on Friday
night after he was smashed on the grille by the Bumrah bouncer that brought
play to an end, to grinding out what could be a performance for the ages.