JOHANNESBURG – The Johannesburg pitch was the only topic on anyone’s lips at The Wanderers after a brutish Day three was prematurely curtailed 19 minutes from the close following a blow to Dean Elgar on the grille of his helmet.
It was the fourth blow sustained by Elgar in his 32-ball stay, and after consultation with the ICC Match Referee Andy Pycroft, the umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar took the players off.
The curtailment prompted questions pertaining to whether the pitch was too dangerous for the match to continue, but India batsman Ajinkya Rahane, who had earlier made a sparkling 48 to top-score in India’s innings, insisted his team wanted to stay out there. “I don’t think it is a dangerous wicket,” he said. “We wanted to continue, the umpires said the decision is completely up to us. We told them our message is completely clear. We want to play.”
South Africa coach Ottis Gibson, speaking at the close, echoed Rahane’s conviction that the teams are there first and foremost to play the game. “We are here to play cricket. We still want to play cricket,” he said. “The match ref's decision will be on player safety. If the match ref says play on, we are going to play. Once a decision is made, that's it.
“Throughout the whole game on both sides, you saw batsmen wearing a few. India didn't complain and we didn't either. Dean got hit in the face, he wasn't able to take evasive action. The match ref feels there is something there for him to look at. Once they make a decision, we will get on with it.”
Gibson refuted the suggestion that the pitch was excessively unsuitable. “I have played here before and I have played here on a wicket that looked similar to this. Both teams said it looked like a good pitch. The grass was cut down to 5mm. When we play in England, the grass is a similar sort of length.
“I don’t think we expected it to behave in the way that it did. It started tough on the first day and it got a little worse. The umpires will make a decision, the reason why they are here is to make decisions on the safety on the pitch.”
African News Agency (ANA)