The start of play on the fourth day of the third and final Test yesterday between South Africa and India was delayed after early-morning rain.
Play was due to resume at 10am after it was suspended on Friday, but because of a damp outfield and slight dampness on the pitch, the start was delayed.
The Test was to resume yesterday despite fears over the Wanderers Stadium pitch which was described as “dangerous” and caused an early stoppage on Friday, officials said.
“The on-field umpires, in consultation with the match referee, and after speaking with both the captains and groundsmen, have decided that the Johannesburg Test will resume on time on Saturday,” said an International Cricket Council (ICC) statement.
Umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould, in consultation with match referee Andy Pycroft, took the players off the field earlier than scheduled on the third day after South African opener Dean Elgar was hit on the grille of his helmet by a short ball from India’s Jasprit Bumrah.
The pitch had come under severe scrutiny over the first three days with a series of batsmen taking hits.
There had been several discussions between the umpires earlier in the day because of unusual bounce and deviation on a pitch which former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar described as “dangerous.”
Both captains were called into a meeting with Pycroft and the umpires in accordance with ICC regulations.
Indian manager Sunil Subramanian made it clear that India wanted play to resume with his team in a strong position with South Africa 17 for one after being set to make 241 to win.
“Play on Friday was suspended shortly before scheduled close because the on-field umpires wanted to consult the match referee regarding the condition of the pitch,” the ICC added.
“The on-field umpires will continue to monitor the pitch and consult the match referee should the pitch deteriorate further. The welfare of the players is paramount and two of the most experienced match officials are in charge of the game and will take appropriate decisions,” it said.
Only two Test matches have previously been abandoned because of dangerous conditions.
In January 1998, England were 17 for three against the West Indies at Sabina Park in Jamaica when the umpires stopped play because of a hazardous pitch.
And a match between the same two teams in Antigua in February 2009 was called off after 10 balls because a soft outfield was regarded as dangerous for bowlers and fielders.
Subramanian said he believed that the ball which struck Elgar was “a normal ball” which had bounced from short of a length.
“We held the view that the wicket was doing the same for all three days and today was the day with the least wickets and the strike rate was the highest. We would like play to continue,” he said.
South Africa coach Ottis Gibson, whose team are chasing a 3-0 whitewash, said he accepted the decision to resume the Test.
“We are here to play cricket,” Gibson said. “We still want to play cricket. The match referee’s decision will be based around player safety, they won’t call it off if they don’t think it is safe. If the match referee comes tomorrow and says ‘game on’ then we are going to play.”
“The batsmen will try and do their best to bat us to victory. Throughout the whole game on both sides, you saw batsmen wearing a few on the body. India didn’t complain and we are not complaining either,” Gibson said.
Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who top-scored for his team with 48, said conditions were challenging, but not dangerous.
“It was the same for both teams,” he said.
If it was decided to do remedial work to the pitch, “it would be unfair to one of the sides,” Subramanian said.
However, he later added: “Let’s cross that bridge when we come there.”
Former international players in the SuperSport television commentary box were critical of the pitch earlier.
“It’s almost an accident waiting to happen,” former South African captain Kepler Wessels said.
Former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding recalled the infamous 1998 Test between the West Indies and England in Jamaica which was abandoned because of a dangerous pitch.
“That was a total fiasco, this isn’t far off,” he said.
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