Thursday 13 December 2018

Dangerous pitch sees South Africa chase halted

Cricket

The final Test between South Africa and India will resume as scheduled today after fears over the safety of the Johannesburg pitch (stock picture)
The final Test between South Africa and India will resume as scheduled today after fears over the safety of the Johannesburg pitch (stock picture)

Gerard Hughes

The third and final Test between South Africa and India will resume as scheduled today after day three was curtailed early due to fears about the safety of the Johannesburg pitch.

Cracks in the Wanderers surface had led to uneven and inconsistent bounce, and umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar led the players off after Proteas opener Dean Elgar took a flush blow to his helmet from a Jasprit Bumrah bouncer.

A meeting was held between the umpires and the two captains in the match referee's room and, with rain starting to fall, stumps were called with South Africa on 17 for one in pursuit of 241 for a 3-0 series whitewash.

The fate of the Test was uncertain but the International Cricket Council later clarified that the match would proceed after a day in which players from both teams had taken knocks to the body.

The umpires seemed to discuss the state of the pitch on several occasions as the day unfolded but it was only when Elgar was struck on the front of the helmet, the fourth time he had been hit in his 32-ball innings, that they took action.

According to ICC rules, law 6.4 pertaining to the pitch states: "If the on-field umpires decide that it is dangerous or unreasonable for play to continue on the match pitch, they shall stop play and immediately advise the ICC match referee."

Courage

A number of Indian batsmen showed no lack of courage, with the recalled Ajinkya Rahane a stand-out as he defied the conditions and some hostile bowling from the Proteas pacemen to top-score with 48.

His efforts, plus 41 from captain Virat Kohli and a gutsy 33 from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, lifted India to 247 all out in their second innings.

All the talk was on the unpredictable nature of the pitch, though, and ICC sanctions are likely to follow the conclusion of the Test. Only two other Tests have been abandoned because of dangerous conditions - both in the West Indies, in Jamaica in 1998 and Antigua 11 years later.

Elsewhere, England couldn't recover from a nightmare start as their hopes of a whitewash in the series were ended following Australia's win in the fourth one-day international in Adelaide.

The tourists had threatened to ruin the home side's Australia Day celebrations by sealing a fourth successive ODI victory but instead found themselves on the brink of humiliation when Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins left them reeling at eight for five in the seventh over.

Eleven years ago Australia embarrassed England by winning a day/night match before the floodlights had come on and without Chris Woakes' defiant 78 this might have been even more crushing.

As it was England ground out 196 and picked up seven wickets in a nervous reply which leant heavily opener Travis Head's 96 to make it 3-1 with a game to play.

  • South Africa v India, Live, Sky Sports Cricket, 8.0am

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