‘Dangerous’ pitch puts rest of S.Africa v India Test in doubt

Further play in the third Test between South Africa and India was in the hands of the match officials on Friday after play was called off shortly before the scheduled close on the third day at the Wanderers.

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

There had been several discussions between the umpires earlier in the day because of unusual bounce and deviation on a pitch which former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar had earlier described as “dangerous”.

Both captains were called into a meeting with Pycroft and the umpires 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 for one after being set to make 241 to win.

Both managers had been called to a meeting with Pycroft during the tea interval.

“We were told that if the conditions were unfit for play, both captains would be consulted,” said Subramanian.

“We held the view that the wicket was doing the same for all three days and today was the day with the least wickets and the strike rate was the highest. We would like play to continue.”

Only two Test matches have previously been abandoned because of dangerous conditions.

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

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

Subramanian said he believed that the ball which struck Elgar was “a normal ball” which had bounced from short of a length. Subramanian said he understood that a decision might be made as late as Saturday morning.

South African manager Mohammed Moosajee said the decision rested entirely with the match referee.

“We can’t say either way whether we want to play or not. They’ve got to make a decision whether it’s safe or not.”

– ‘This is a dangerous pitch’ –

Moosajee added: “Everybody wants to see Test cricket. The match is interestingly poised. It could go either way. The issue becomes what is unfit and unsafe. That is for the match officials to decide.”

Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who top-scored for his team with 48, said conditions were challenging but not dangerous.

“It was the same for both teams,” he said.

The procedure is that umpires can call off play when they consider conditions to be dangerous. The umpires and match referee then consult the captains.

Play can resume if the captains agree. If not, the umpires and match referee have to decide whether it is possible to effect repairs to the pitch so that play can resume. If not the match can be abandoned.

Subramanian said that if it was decided to do remedial work to the pitch, “it would be unfair to one of the sides.” But he later added: “Let’s cross that bridge when we come there.”

Former international players in the SuperSport television commentary box were critical of the pitch earlier.

“It’s almost an accident waiting to happen,” said former South African captain Kepler Wessels.

Ex-West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding recalled the infamous 1998 Test between the West Indies and England in Jamaica which was abandoned because of a dangerous pitch.

“That was a total fiasco, this isn’t far off,” he said.

Former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar said: “This is a dangerous pitch.”

Wessels said after play was called off that “the situation has now become very complicated” because the umpires had allowed the Indian innings to be completed before acting.

Holding said: “This pitch is dangerous. The umpires should have acted earlier.”

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits