Tricky track is bothering batsmen

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Vernon Philander cuts a delivery during Day 2 of the 1st Test between South Africa and India at the Wanderers. Photo: Duif du Toit

Johannesburg - The first Test pitch has kept South Africa and India guessing and Proteas batsman Hashim Amla said after the second day’s play, when asked how the track might behave on Friday: “Your guess is as good as mine”.

But, after a day of see-sawing, he was confident that the fight was not over, with South Africa on 213/6 in reply to the tourists’ 280.

Up until now, the track has done no favours and created some fear. Amla, who looked to have been in good nick before he shouldered arms to Ishant Sharma and was bowled, said of the surface: “It might be better (Friday), it might be worse, we’re not too sure - we’ll wait and see. The cracks have certainly got bigger, (they do) naturally, as the days go on. With the sunshine they will open up a bit more, but we’ve got to wait and see.”

Amla had a chuckle at his own dismissal, leaving a ball he thought would bounce higher and that nipped in more than he expected. Sharma celebrated by blowing kisses to the crowd, turning in a performance that many had not expected.

“I don’t think the wicket had much to do with some of the dismissals,” smiled Amla. “The guys did bowl well. The pitch is offering a lot to the seamers, the ball has been swinging pretty much consistently. I could have used my bat, or tried to. It was bad judgement. They always say there are two types of leave - the good leave and the bad leave - and that was obviously a good example of a bad leave. Next time hopefully I’ll play at those. There are worse ways to get out.”

South Africa and India both lost five wickets for 16 runs on Thursday, which, said Amla, was an unlucky coincidence. “That’s cricket. On a good sporting track things can happen.”

It was not the biggest collapse by South Africa in this position (losing wickets 2-6 after having scored over 100 runs), according to Andrew Samson, the statistician, but it was not far off. They lost five wickets for 11 runs in Joburg in 1914.

Thurday’s was the second-biggest collapse, but there was also a recovery.

Vernon Philander and Faf du Plessis laboured hard to give South Africa some hope. Philander has, apparently, been playing with toothache, and ended the day with 48.

“Ever since Vern has come into the national team, he has proven his worth as an amazing bowler and a useful batsman,” Amla said. “He’s always considered himself an all-rounder. If you think back to Lord’s (2012), he got 60-odd (61) at a crucial time. Today he batted really well. He’s playing well, so I don’t think the toothache affected him too much.

“Our batting unit is pretty solid, we’ve managed to post big totals consistently. When you have a collapse like this, we’ve had it before. Fortunately there is another innings where we can rectify things and get some runs on the board. We know the potential and the quality in the team. (India’s) 280 seems a good total on a wicket like this, 270 would be a good chase.” – Cape Argus

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