Rahane, Kohli keep India in the hunt on ‘dangerous’ pitch

The nature of the pitch forced an early close of play of Day Three, with batsmen from both sides having been repeatedly struck on various parts of their body. South Africa needs 224 more runs to win, with nine wickets in hand.

Dean Elgar (centre) is treated after being hit by a delivery late on Day Three in Johannesburg. Play was called off due as the pitch was deemed “dangerous for play.”   -  AFP

It was a brutal delivery from Jasprit Bumrah that climbed from short of a good length and hit opener Dean Elgar in the front portion of his helmet.

Even as the left-hander went down in agony and then was treated with an ice pack, umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould decided they have had enough. The batsmen had been repeatedly struck on various parts of their body on this surface of uneven bounce at the Wanderers; some deliveries climbed devilishly from a length and the others kept low on a track where the cracks had widened.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Even as Elgar received treatment, the umpires had a discussion with match referee Andy Pyrcroft, and then the South African batsmen Elgar and Hashim Alma came off. The Indian captain Virat Kohli - his team having had bravely slugged it out on the treacherous surface - was keen on the continuation of the game, but the South Africans weren’t.

Play was “called off” for the day because of a pitch “dangerous for play” with South Africa, pursuing 241 for win, at 17 for one on the third day of the third Test at the Wanderers on Friday.

Aiden Markram was earlier held well by a leaping Parthiv Patel off a Mohammed Shami lifter. At the other end, Elgar kept getting hit on the body before taking the final blow.

Read: India concerned over pitch-induced pause of play

The day belonged to the Indian batsmen. They put their limbs in the line of mean, lifting deliveries on a spiteful pitch but put a price on their scalp. It was a blood and guts display at the Bull Ring. The Indians were willing to withstand pain but unwilling to come off with Ajinkya Rahane, concealing his discomfort after being struck, not wanting to send the wrong message to the umpires. From the pavilion Kohli signalled his men to continue.

Umpires Ian Gould (left) and Aleem Dar send the players off the field. Photo: Getty Images

 

For India, Rahane (48), Kohli (41), M. Vijay (25) impressed. Then there were valuable knocks down the order from Bhuvneshwar Kumar (33) and Shami (27).

Enterprising knock

Ajinkya Rahane’s 68-ball innings a gem. The diminutive, well-organised batsman, given the slightest of width, creamed the ball square of the pitch with fine back-foot play. He drove on the up through the off-side, and employed his wrists to stroke the ball through the on-side.

Rahane’s methods disrupted both the line and length of the South African attack and he was quick to pick runs off his legs.

The rollicking 55-run seventh wicket association between Rahane and the feisty Bhuvneshwar took the lead close to the psychologically important mark of 200. The normally brilliant South African fielding wilted under the onslaught. Elgar and Adile Phehlukwayo put down regulation catches.

Ajinkya Rahane was clever in his method of run-making in the spiteful Johannesburg pitch. He top scored with 48. Photo: AP

 

Rahane, eventually, was acrobatically held down leg-side by flying ‘keeper Quinton de Kock off Morne Morkel but Shami lashed out at the attack to swell India’s score.

Kohli, Vijay among runs

Kohli, reprieved early on when Markram put down a sharp chance at short-leg, was all class on this vicious surface, getting into good positions with clever footwork. Given that some deliveries hugged the surface, Kohli stood outside the crease and put a good stride forward. When he cover-drove Philander, head still, front leg stretched out and with full extension of arms, the entire motion was as flowing as they come.

Kohli and a determined M. Vijay added 43 precious runs for the fourth wicket, batting most of the first session after K. L. Rahul, playing away from his body, and Cheteshwar Pujara, snared by a lifting delivery in the corridor, departed early.

Vijay showed the way in the first session with a courageous 127-ball 25 in testing conditions. He took at least five blows on his body – on the glove, arm, box – but either got behind the line or ‘left’ judiciously. This was an innings where Vijay judged length capably, doing away with the ‘forward press’, staying still and non-committal at the point of release, and moving his feet.

For South Africa, Rabada was hostile. He got the past Vijay’s defence with a fast yorker at the stroke of lunch and bowled Kohli with a delivery that cut back sharply.

This Test, though, doesn’t seem destined for a finish. Blame the pitch.

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