Wanderers pitch risks making unwanted history

2018-01-26 21:43
Dean Elgar (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Despite confirmation from the International Cricket Council (ICC) that the third Test between the Proteas and India will resume on Saturday's Day 4 at the Wanderers, it risks becoming only the third Test to ever be abandoned because of dangerous conditions.

SCORECARD: Proteas v India, 3rd Test

Umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould, in consultation with match referee Andy Pycroft, took the players off the field some 20 minutes before the scheduled close on Friday after South African opener Dean Elgar was hit on the grille of his helmet by a short ball from India’s Jasprit Bumrah.

The Wanderers pitch, with areas of good length at both ends but where bounce was unpredictable, had come under severe scrutiny over the first three days with a series of batsmen taking blows to the body.

Only two Test matches - out of the 2 293 played prior to the one in Johannesburg - have been abandoned because of dangerous conditions.

In January 1998, England were 17/3 against the West Indies at Sabina Park in Jamaica when the umpires stopped play because of a hazardous pitch.

And a match between the same two teams in Antigua in February 2009 was called off after 10 balls because a soft outfield was regarded as dangerous for bowlers and fielders.

Therefore, an early abandonment of this Test would be the first for the country and something groundsman Bethuel Buthelezi, who was named Groundsman of the Year at the CSA awards in 2016, will no doubt be having a sleepless night about.

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Commentators - and former top cricketers - Kepler Wessels and Michael Holding were at pains to convey their views that the pitch would not improve on days 4 and 5, with Holding adding he wouldn't even wish to bowl, let alone bat, on such a track, with the risk of having to live with the notion he'd done bodily harm to a batsman.

No doubt the death of Australian Test opener Phillip Hughes who was hit on the head by a bouncer at the Sydney Cricket Ground in late 2014 is still fresh in the minds of many.

Both captains were called into a meeting with Pycroft and the umpires after Friday's curtailed play in accordance with International Cricket Council regulations.

Indian manager Sunil Subramanian made it clear that India wanted play to resume on Saturday. 

India were in a strong position with South Africa 17/1 after being set 241 to win and claim a 3-0 series whitewash against their opponents who are the No 1-ranked side in the ICC Test rankings.

The ICC confirmed that the on-field umpires will continue to monitor the pitch and consult the match referee should the pitch deteriorate further. 

"The welfare of the players is paramount and two of the most experienced match officials are in charge of the game and will take appropriate decisions."

Read more on:    india  |  proteas  |  johannesburg  |  cricket


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