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Pitch controversy casts doubt over third Test at the Wanderers

As a result of Dean Elgar’s blow to the helmet, a decision was taken to abandon play for the rest of the day, sighting 'unsafe' conditions for the players.

The umpires suspended play on day 3 after deeming the pitch was unsafe to play. Picture: Twitter/@OfficialCSA

JOHANNESBURG- Day three of the third and final Test match at the Wanderers ended in controversy over the safety of the pitch conditions, which arose when Proteas opening batsman Dean Elgar was struck on the helmet by a rising Jasprit Bumrah delivery.

As a result of Elgar’s blow to the helmet, the match referee Andy Pycroft and the two on-field umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar consulted with both team’s managers and captains, and subsequently abandoned play for the rest of the day, sighting that conditions were ‘unsafe’ for the players.

Earlier, South Africa had labored in their quest to bowl the Indians out and restrict them to a modest target that they could chase to inflict a 3-0 series whitewash on the number one ranked Test team in the world.

In their efforts, the Proteas were wayward in their bowling and crucially dropped several simple catches presented by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ajinkya Rahane. India rode their luck and managed to catapult themselves into the driver’s seat by posting a challenging target of 241 for the South Africans to chase, on a pitch that was challenging to bat on.

The start of the Proteas run chase didn’t get off on the right foot, as Aiden Makram again wafted at a ball that was away from his body, as his struggles against Kumar continued this series. He was out for four runs before Bumrah was introduced into the attack.

From the onset, Elgar had struggled to deal with the bounce and movement on the pitch. He and Hashim Amla had been struck several times on the body, including a blow that Elgar tried to leave but rose sharply and hit him on the hand.

The Indian cricket team’s manager Sunil Subramaniam said they felt the conditions had not changed since they last batted on the pitch.

“We had the view that the wicket had been the same for all three days and today has probably seen a higher strike rate and few wickets fall so we would like to continue playing.”

The South African’s, represented by their manager and head coach Mohammed Moosajee and Ottis Gibson, said the future of the Test match lies solely in the hands of the match referee.

“From our point of view, the decision to continue with the game rests squarely in the hands of the match officials. We can’t say whether we want to play or not, the match referee will make the decision whether it is safe to play or not.”

At this stage, it is still unclear whether the game will continue on day 4, but should it continue, the Proteas will have a mountain to climb in their pursuit of 241 for victory in the current conditions.

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