Umpires discuss the state of the pitch

Umpires call early stumps at The Wanderers after Elgar blow

SA v Ind, 3rd Test, match report

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With the third Test between South Africa and India finely poised, the umpires called an early halt to the day's proceedings to consult the match referee about the pitch. Despite this early finish it has been confirmed that day four will start on time.

Nineteen minutes before stumps were due to be drawn on the third day at The Wanderers, the umpires – after consultation with Andy Pycroft, the match referee – led the players off after assessing that the pitch had become too dangerous to play on. Moments earlier, a bouncer from Jasprit Bumrah had thudded into Dean Elgar’s helmet, with only the grille saving him from serious injury. It was the third serious blow Elgar had taken. South Africa were 17/1 at the time, needing a further 224 runs to complete a 3-0 whitewash. Despite the umpires calling an early end to proceedings to consult with the match referee it has been confirmed that the match will start on time on the fourth day. 

Both captains went to meet the match referee, and with a light drizzle falling, play was called off for the day. On a pitch where the variable bounce and extravagant seam movement had become the prime talking point, India’s batsmen had produced their most disciplined display of the series to set South Africa a stiff target.

Virat Kohli led the way with a classy 41, after Murali Vijay had defied the bowlers for 194 minutes for his gutsy 25. Ajinkya Rahane, the vice-captain recalled to the team for this game, contributed a calm and stroke-filled 48, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar showed off his batting ability again with 33 as India overcame the loss of two early wickets to finish the day on top.

India celebrate the wicket of Aiden Markram shortly before stumps on day three
India celebrate the wicket of Aiden Markram shortly before stumps on day three

Starting the day 42 runs in front, the last thing India needed was the loss of early wickets. But within five overs, they were three down. KL Rahul followed an away-swinging delivery from Vernon Philander and edged to second slip, while Cheteshwar Pujara was squared up by an almost unplayable ball from Morne Morkel that he could only edge into Faf du Plessis’ hands.

At 57/3, with the lead just 50, India were in some disarray. Kohli started off with a sublime cover drive off Philander, but was then fortunate that a flick off Morkel went too quickly off the bat for Aiden Markram, at short leg, to hang on. It was a testing passage of play, with both batsmen hit on the hands, and the odd ball shooting through at bootlace height.

With the scoreboard in danger of stalling, Kohli flat-batted one to the long-on fence off Kagiso Rabada, before turning his attention to Lungi Ngidi. After a lovely cover drive, he hit him crisply down the ground for four more. Vijay, meanwhile, left or defended nearly everything. That was until the cusp of lunch, when Rabada breached his defence with the perfect yorker (100/4). As the players trooped off, the umpires inspected the pitch, with the ground staff also in attendance.

Rabada picked up three second-innings wickets to make it six for the match
Rabada picked up three second-innings wickets to make it six for the match

After Vijay’s exit, India needed another partnership to steer them towards a respectable total. Kohli made the early running after lunch, guiding Philander behind point and then driving him beautifully through the covers. With the lead over 100, Rahane joined in, slashing one over point for four. And when Morkel tried pitching fuller, he drove him through cover and then flicked through mid-wicket.

The partnership was worth 34 when Rabada struck again. Kohli, who had made 41 from 79 balls, was undone by sharp inward movement that took the top of off stump. Hardik Pandya was welcomed with a nasty hit on the wrist, but Rahane kept going with a sweetly timed cover drive and an exquisite on drive off Philander.

But when Pandya bunted the first ball after the drinks break back to Rabada, India had slipped to 148/6. Enter Bhuvneshwar, who had made 30 in the first dig. When Rahane was struck on the hand soon after, the umpires had another discussion. But he and Bhuvneshwar kept the score moving with clever tap-and-runs, and well-placed drives, before Elgar dropped Bhuvneshwar at gully off Morkel’s bowling. He was on 15 then, with the score 178/6.

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It would prove a costly lapse, and du Plessis’ mood didn’t improve when Andile Phehlukwayo, at deep square leg, dropped Rahane (then 38) on the same score. The 50-run stand came in just 70 balls, and India went to tea at 199/6, having added 99 in the session. Rahane fell soon after resumption, glancing Morkel, only to see Quinton de Kock dive across and take an excellent catch.

But India were far from done. Mohammed Shami pulled Morkel for six before top-edging Philander over the keeper for four more. But the shot that summed up the Indian mood was the ferocious clout over long-on for six when Rabada dropped one short. Shami made 27 from just 28 balls before slugging Ngidi to deep square leg (238/8).

Bhuvneshwar, who batted nearly two hours and faced 76 balls, was finally out edging Morkel behind, and Philander needed just one ball with the new cherry to wrap things up. Markram fell for just 4, surprised by steepling bounce from Shami, but instead of a formidable run chase, it was the pitch that grabbed all the headlines in the final hour.   

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