Cape Town - For the umpteenth time during this fraught test series between South Africa and Australia, the officials will have deliberations to make off the field after yet another eventful – if not downright controversial – day at Newlands.
The Proteas were 238/5 on day three of the third test in Cape Town yesterday when bad light stopped play. South Africa has a second-innings lead of 294 runs with two days and another game remaining. The teams have won one game each.
As ever, AB de Villiers, who, with fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, is starting to look like the batsman in the Aussies’ way to winning the series, was unbeaten at the crease on 51 runs.
Quinton de Kock, with 29 off 33 balls, kept him company as the hosts tried to establish a lead big enough to inch ahead in one of the more closely contested series in history between the two countries.
But the bigger talking point was how cameras caught Australian opening batsman Cameron Bancroft, who was the top scorer in the visitors’ second innings with a carefully put together 77, seemingly altering the condition of the ball during the second session.
According to the footage, Bancroft worked the rough side of the ball with something that looked like yellow sandpaper that he took out of his pocket.
With the Aussie dressing room having spotted the indiscretion on television, 12th man Peter Handscomb came on to the field to give Bancroft the heads-up.
Bancroft then spirited the foreign object into his crotch shortly before the umpires called him over to explain the footage. He then showed the officials what looked like a sunglasses casing made of black cloth.
In a series in which reverse swing has taken most of the wickets – often early – the question that will stay in match referee Andy Pycroft’s mind overnight is if Bancroft, as the designated shiner of the ball, was also in charge of altering its condition.
The pity is that, once again, stuff off the field and boorish fans in one of the more pleasant settings for test cricket have overshadowed not only a good series, but a good test match as well – not to mention the many milestones achieved over the first three days in Cape Town.
Proteas opener Dean Elgar’s 141 saw him join West Indies legend Desmond Haynes as the only other batsman in test cricket to carry his bat in three innings. Morné Morkel’s 4/87 meant he became South Africa’s fifth bowler with more than 300 test wickets, while Aussie captain Steve Smith’s five catches made him the 11th fielder who is not a keeper to take that many in the Proteas’ first innings of 311 all-out.
On day three, the hosts made light work of Australia by taking the last wicket of Josh Hazlewood for 10 runs for a first innings lead of 56. Aiden Markram and De Villiers, who were abetted by a surprisingly bright and breezy De Kock, rammed home the advantage.
Markram pulled out one of his rear-guard second innings scores, taking 84 off 145 balls before chipping a catch off Mitchell Starc to Pat Cummins – incidentally the pick of the Aussie bowlers in this match with his six scalps thus far – at mid-on to give away what looked like a certain century.
Having beaten himself up for being dismissed on 64 when he looked untroubled in the first innings, De Villiers dug deep for his half-century, which came courtesy of a reverse sweep off spinner Nathan Lyon and 103 balls. – City Press correspondent