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Friday, January 26, 2018

Johannesburg Test ~ Dean Elgar hit on helmet - play suspended for the day !!!

The 3rd  Test  at Johannesburg, (Test no. 2294) between India and South Africa is interestingly poised (that should be a misnomer !)

The summary scorecard reads :  India 187 & 247 / South Africa 194 & 17/1* - chasing a target of 241.  When play halted in unnatural manner – at close on day 3 :  South Africa require another 224 runs with 9 wickets remaining – that is not going to reflect the true story at all .  One cannot imagine a Test India playing 5 fast bowlers, yes – Bhuvi Kumar, Jasprit Bumra, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya

Closer to the end as SA lost Markram, at 8.3 – Bumrah pitched one short to Dean Elgar.  Elgar had been unsteady;  struck more than a couple of times on hand and body – painful blows.  This time the rising delivery hit him on the helmet, on the grille to be precise – he was writhing with pain.  Physio ran in – play stopped for a while as he was attended to – meantime the Umpires had a chat – in came the Match Referee too – the two Captains were called – the Captains were seen with their Coaches – and, and the two captains headed  into the refereee's room.

Collaged picture : bcci pic and tv grab.
Experienced Ian Gould and Aleem Dar are the Umpires - Michael Gough is the TV Umpire and Andy Pycroft is the match referee. It was drizzling too as day 3 was halted rather abruptly and there are apprehensions that they are discussing about the deteriorating pitch and may call it a dangerous pitch, suggesting abandonment.

The real story could be far different - India have set South Africa an improbable 241 to win on what is described as a  treacherous Wanderers pitch. South Africa had to bat for about 65 minutes ! The 55-run partnership between Ajinkya Rahane and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, both of whom were dropped in the last Test, made India's lead a formidable one, and the cherry on the cake came through a cameo from Mohammed Shami, who scored 27 off 28 balls. He hit the first six of the match, and soon followed it up with another, clattering Kagiso Rabada over wide mid-on. For the first time in the match, the second new ball was called for but used for only one ball.

The pitch did have un even bounce.  With a skilful SA attack bouncing it short, Indian batters did have tough time, taking some body blows.  Kohli, Rahane and Vijay - and later Bhuvneshwar Kumar - showed exceptional courage, skill and match awareness.  In the morning, KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara fell cheaply threatening a debacle.   Vijay though scored only 25 did a fine job seeing off the threat for long. Vijay wore five blows, Kohli one in that session. However, the judgement didn't waver.  The Indian tail contributed and the target of 241 looks so menacing now.

Bhuvneswar Kumar and Shami opened the attack.  Shami had them hopping in – particularly Elgar and got rid of Markram.  Bumrah had bowled just 3 deliveries when play was stopped.  The injury caused some talk on the status of the pitch :

"Two out of 100 [is my rating for the pitch]. It's a s**t pitch. You can interpret that. 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." Michael Holding, the former West Indies fast bowler and television commentator present at the Wanderers Test.

While all tend to blame the pitch, something is grossly missed.  Sunil Gavaskar was quick to point out that, that particular Bumrah delivery had been pitched pretty short -   8.5 metres from the base of the stumps; so not a brute of delivery but regular short pitched and perhaps Elgar’s technique and judgment was not good enough. Gavaskar also queried that what would have happened if the same blow would have been received by an Indian batsman – perhaps the World would have drawn knives to inflict on the batter that Indians do not play rising deliveries well.  Sad, double standards and if the match were to be abandoned, very sad – for this ball was a short one and not a brute one flying off good length !!!

In Jan 1998, the first Test between West Indies and England was abandoned  because of a dangerous pitch  at Sabina Park. On that day, it took less than an hour's play at Sabina Park before the test was abandoned because of a substandard pitch. In a move unprecedented in Test cricket's 122-year history, the umpires brought the players off the field. As the sole arbiters of what happens on the field, the decision was theirs, though it had the backing of both captains as well as a those of England's battered batsmen. When play was halted, immediately after Graham Thorpe had been struck another nasty blow to the hand, England were reeling at 17 for 3, though the bruise count was much higher. In fact the England physio, Wayne Morton, made six appearances on the field in order to administer his cold spray to throbbing fingers and arms.  Windies were captained by Brian Lara and had Ian Bishop, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, N McLean as bowlers.  The Umpires were  S A Bucknor (WI) and S Venkataraghavan (Ind).

Memory drifts back to that Chepauk test in 1979 when Dhiraj Parsana and Chang made their debuts.  Chang had a nasty blow off Karsan Ghavri delivery and was left bleeding.  Chasing a smaller target of 126, the ball was flying.  Dilip Vengsarkar was subjected to a barrage of short pitched ones by Stuart Clarke and Norbert Philip.  When hit, he threw his bat and threatened to walk out ! – India won that test, Viswanath, Gaekward and Kapil Dev making some good runs as India lost 7 wickets making 126. .. .. ~ and some may remember that a tall leg-spinner  Modireddy Venkat Narasimha Rao from Hyderabad played replacing legendary Bhagwat Chandrasekar.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
26th Jan 2018.


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