JOHANNESBURG – The Wanderers has narrowly escaped an immediate ban, but the ICC have rated the pitch used for the third Test between South Africa and India as “poor”.
The ICC Pitch and Outfield Monitoring Process issued the Wanderers with three demerit points, which will hang over the venue for a rolling five-year period. Should the Wanderers – affectionately nicknamed the “Bullring” – though reach a total of five demerit points during the five-year period, the stadium will be suspended from hosting any international cricket for 12 months.
The Wanderers is one of South Africa’s premier grounds, having hosted the 2003 ICC World Cup final, 2007 ICC World T20 final, and the 2009 Indian Premier League final.
“The pitch prepared for the final Test was a poor one. It had excessively steep and unpredictable bounce, and excessive seam movement,” stated ICC match referee Andy Pycroft.
“It deteriorated quickly as the match progressed, which made batting extremely difficult and hazardous, resulting in the medical staff from both the sides having to come onto the field of play multiple times to treat their batsmen.
“As the on-field umpires are also responsible for the players' safety, they expressed concerns about the behaviour of the pitch, and debated after day three if it was appropriate to continue the match. In the end, the umpires made the decision to continue and the Test reached its natural conclusion on day four. However, there was still excessive variable bounce and seam movement when the Test match ended.”
The final Test, which India won by 63 runs, went into the fourth day but was tainted on the third evening when the umpires took the players off the field after South African opener Dean Elgar was hit on the helmet. After consultation with Pycroft and the respective captains, the match continued the next day after initially being delayed due to a thunderstorm.
Conditions for batting was challenging throughout the Test match with batsmen regularly being hit on the fingers and on the body. Elgar, who was the highest scorer in the Test with his undefeated 83 in South Africa’s second innings, believed the Test should have been called off.
This was in contrast to the Indians, though, with both captain Virat Kohli and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, stating while the surface was challenging it was not dangerous.
The next major fixture at the Wanderers is the sold-out “Pink ODI” between South Africa and India on Saturday February 10 before the first T20I the following week.
The Wanderers have a history of producing brilliant surfaces for limited-overs matches – it was the venue for the famed “438” match – but curator Bethuel Buthelezi will certainly come under scrutiny during his preparation of the pitch for the fourth and final Test against Australia at the end of March.