IND vs SA: Third day's play called off

The drought-ridden city of Cape Town witnessed persistent shower on Sunday that abandoned the third day's play between India and South Africa.

The third day’s play of the first Test here on Sunday was washed out without a ball being bowled.  

Rain, covers, and super soppers - never a welcome sight in a game of cricket. More so at the pivotal stage of an intriguing Test.

The showers brought welcome respite to a drought-hit city but were not good news for cricket.

If we witnessed spirit-lifting contests between the bat and the ball on the first two days, the third day’s play of the first Test here on Sunday was washed out without a ball being bowled.  

There were occasions when a resumption in play appeared possible but a persistent drizzle meant the few faithful fans who has braved the weather to stay on the ground had to return home disappointed.

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Some of the them, unmindful of the downpour, frolicked on the hills in the stands. The more audacious ones ran on to the field – they were given a chase by the security staff who slipped and fell while doing so – providing moments of entertainment on an otherwise dull, murky day.

The clouds covered the Table Mountain as well. It was a day when this iconic arena at the Newlands was without a view.

The good news is that the forecast for the next two days is good. And that could enough to throw up a result on a seaming pitch. A draw, though, is also a possibility now.

South Africa, 65 for two in the second innings, and leading India by 142 runs holds the edge. But then, the rain does somewhat change the dynamics of the contest.

There should be more assistance to the pacemen owning to the moisture on a surface that has been covered for such a long time when play resumes on Monday.

And this should provide an opportunity for the Indian pacemen to strike early and then build on that momentum. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in particular, could exploit the conditions.

South Africa, if it sees through the initial period without too much damage, could up the tempo and seek to post India a target beyond 350.

The chances are that India could bat in the final session on Monday and then there is a day five of immense possibilities.

South Africa will be without the injured pace ace Dale Steyn yet has a formidable trio in Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel.

With his accuracy and persistence, Philander could zero in on the cracks on the final day. The red hot Rabada, rhythmic and powerful with an explosive release, bowled quick on day two, extracting disconcerting bounce. He is likely – more so at Hardik Pandya – to bang it in from round the wicket with a short-leg in place.

Morkel can be lethal if he gets his length right since, because of his height and high-arm action, he gets so much natural bounce. Virat Kohli got a taste of that in the Indian first innings.

Then there is left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, who imparts considerable revs on the ball to get it to dip and drift. If the cracks widen, he could be a huge factor.

India has to bowl with discipline – unlike in the first innings where there were too many deliveries sliding down towards the leg-stump to the tailenders – and with a persistent off-stump line to make the most of the seaming conditions. Perhaps, Mohammed Shami needs to bowl further up.   

The Indians will surely seek to limit their target to within 275 to give themselves a fair chance. They cannot afford to let partnerships develop.

Then the Indians have to prevent South Africa from striking with the new ball. Plenty of hopes rest on the Indian top-order; more so against the kookaburra ball.  

It’s advantage South Africa but you can never tell in cricket.