JOHANNESBURG – India has a lead of 93 runs at lunch on the third day of this third and final Sunfoil Test against South Africa, but the pitch here is playing an increasingly dangerous role in how this match unfolds.
The tourists went to lunch on 100/4 with Virat Kohli not out on 27. Murali Vijay was bowled by a magnificent yorker by Kagiso Rabada for 25, which took the teams to the interval
The pair put on 43 for the fourth wicket, and while they both displayed great powers of concentration and drove well when the ball was pitched up, they also copped some severe blows owing to the disconcerting bounce.
Both received treatment after being struck on the hand and midway through the morning, after Vijay had been hit on the left hand by Rabada, the Umpires; Ian Gould and Aleem Dar, had and animated discussion with the two captains.
Whether the match will be called off remains to be seen, but it is clear that the officials are very concerned about the safety of the batsmen.
Kepler Wessels and Michael Holding criticised the surface saying it was far too dangerous and claiming the match should be called off. “It's a s*** pitch,” said Holding.
“They should have called it off when Vijay got hit. This is not a cricket pitch, this is dangerous. Call it off, forget it. You can't play cricket on that. I have no idea what has gone wrong but I know it's not a good cricket pitch. The last time I saw something like this, the match was abandoned. In Jamaica 1998, and it didn't even last this long,” Holding added.
The former West Indies great was referencing the Test between England and West Indies at Sabina Park which was called off after 10.1 overs, with the pitch rated as too dangerous by the umpires.
“The unfortunate thing is that nobody minds movement of the surface but it's the uneven bounce that's the problem and it is quite dangerous from a batting point of view when you have pace attacks bowling around the 140 mark, tall bowlers hitting the deck hard,” said Wessels.
“It is dangerous and it's not ideal. I have seen pitches like this around the world but as we keep saying, you want a good contest between bat and ball and this one is not providing that. I'd give it a 3 out of 10.”
India lost three wickets in the session, the first two in the opening half an hour of play, with Du Plessis hanging onto a pair of very good catches at second slip to dismiss, KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara, with Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel the bowlers benefiting.
It’s been a pitch that throughout the match has been favourable for the seam bowlers, with Hashim Amla, who batted for four hours making 61 on day 2, describing it as “spicy.”
As the teams went to lunch the umpires had another vigorous discussion this time with groundsman Bethuel Buthelezi and advisor and former curator here, Chris Scott.