Dangerous pitch brings early close in South Africa with India on top

India’s Ajinkya Rahane takes evasive action. (Reuters photo)

JOHANNESBURG, (Reuters) – A dangerous pitch brought play to a close 20 minutes early on the third day between South Africa and India with the home side chasing an unlikely target of 241 in the third and final test yesterday.

The Wanderers wicket had seen balls lifting sharply off a good length all day. Umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar, after at least four discussions on whether to take the players off the field, finally took the decision when South Africa opener Dean Elgar was struck on the helmet by a short ball from seamer Jasprit Bumrah. The home side were 17 for one at the close, with Elgar 11 not out and Hashim Amla at the other end on 2, still needing 224 for victory in their second innings.   With the batsmen unable to trust the bounce, the umpires and match commissioner Andy Pycroft will now have to decide if player welfare is under threat.

India might feel aggrieved to have lost 20 minutes at the end of day after their own batsmen took body blows.  South African opener Aiden Markram (4) failed for the second time in the test when he edged a rising ball from Mohammed Shami to wicketkeeper Partiv Patel.

India had earlier showed admirable bravery in posting 247 in their second innings.Ajinkya Rahane (48), not picked for the first two tests of the series, played some sublime shots in difficult conditions. “Our approach is that we want to play and we want to win this test match,” Rahane told reporters after the days’ play. “That ball (to Elgar) was back of length, a hard length. It kicked off with slightly more bounce than usual.

“The bounce on this wicket is completely natural. Not dangerous, it is completely similar for both teams.”   South Africa coach Ottis Gibson says the team wants to complete the test, but says player safety must come first.

“We are here to play cricket. We still want to play cricket,” Gibson said. “The match referee’s decision will be on player safety. If the match ref says play on, we are going to play once a decision is made. “Throughout the whole game on both sides, you saw batsmen wearing a few. India didn’t complain and we didn’t either.” South Africa have an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, but are seeking a first ever clean-sweep over India.

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