The pitch dished up for the third and final Test match between India and South Africa at New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg became the talk of the town on Friday (January 26) when most of the batsmen from both sides struggled to find their feet at the crease. In fact, nearly all the batters took the body blow owing to the uneven bounce on the strip.
During the final session of third day’s play, things got even worsened as a vicious bouncer from India speedster Jasprit Bumrah struck Proteas opener Dean Elgar’s helmet and he immediately called for medical attention. The two umpires then discussed between themselves and decided to go off the field.
Amidst the nightmare sort of day for batsmen, India’s Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane exhibited his class to compile a well-composed 48 while skipper Virat Kohli made 41.
Following the unexpected end of day’s play, Rahane addressed the media and said that the pitch can’t be deemed as ‘too dangerous’ to call off the match.
“New ball is challenging but you cannot call it dangerous, When Amla got 60, no one talked about pitch. Everybody talked about how he played. I hope Elgar is fine, but I don't think pitch is too dangerous,” Rahane quoted in the media conference.
“I don't know what the ICC is going to do, but as a team our focus is to get on with the game,” he added.
India’s team manager Sunil Subramaniam said that the match referee Andy Pycroft had called him during the Tea break to discuss if the pitch has become dangerous to play. Subramaniam also made it quite clear that the visitors are willing to play on this treacherous deck.
“Match Referee had called me at tea in case the pitch got dangerous later. We held the view that the pitch was the same for all three days. Today was the day when we had the least wickets. So we wanted to continue to play,” Subramaniam said in the media conference.
“Play was called off because of that delivery to Elgar. I can tell you about my team, India are willing to play.”
“We are of the view that it was a normal ball (the one to Elgar). It was not a ball that cut alarmingly. It would be unfair to one of the sides if repair work is done on the pitch tomorrow,” the team manager added.
On the other hand, South Africa coach Ottis Gibson clarified that they didn’t ask for grass on the pitch as quite a few people are claiming to be.
“Never asked for grass (on the pitch), we asked for pace and bounce. I don't think we expected it to behave in the way it did. The wicket in Cape Town went for three days but we thought it was a good wicket. That's what we had asked for here,” Gibson said while addressing the reporters.
“Our captain also said this is not fair when balls were taking off a length. We said a decision would have to be made but that's not our decision to make. If a ball is going to hit you on your finger, we can probably get away. But if it's on the face, it's a problem
“Ultimately we still want to play cricket. But Match referee decision will be based on player safety. I hope you are not sitting here thinking we are complaining,” concluded the Proteas coach.
South Africa were tottering at 17 for 1 while chasing the target of 241 in the fourth innings when umpires told the players to go off the field.