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23 February 2024

Dangerous pitch halts India's victory charge against South Africa

Photo: Reuters

By Reuters

A dangerous pitch brought play to a close 20 minutes early on the third day between South Africa and India with the home side chasing an unlikely target of 241 in the third and final test on Friday.

The future of the match appeared to be uncertain when umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar ordered the players off the field after several batsmen suffered blows to their bodies because of an uneven bounce.

However, officials announced that the test would resume as scheduled on day four following a meeting between the umpires, match commissioner Andy Pycroft and team representatives.

"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 International Cricket Council said in a statement.

"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."

With balls lifting sharply off a good length all day, the umpires discussed player safety on at least four occasions before finally halting proceedings when South Africa opener Dean Elgar was struck on the helmet by a short ball from seamer Jasprit Bumrah.

The home side were 17 for one at the close, with Elgar 11 not out and Hashim Amla at the other end on two, still needing 224 for victory in their second innings.

India might feel aggrieved to have lost 20 minutes at the end of day after their own batsmen took body blows all through their second innings.

The tourists had earlier showed admirable bravery in posting 247 in their second innings.

Ajinkya Rahane (48), not picked for the first two tests of the series, played some sublime shots and said the game should continue.

"Our approach is that we want to play and we want to win this test match," Rahane told reporters.

"That ball (to Elgar) was back of length, a hard length. It kicked off with slightly more bounce than usual.

"The bounce on this wicket is completely natural. Not dangerous, it is completely similar for both teams."

South Africa coach Ottis Gibson says his team also wants to complete the test.

"We are here to play cricket. We still want to play cricket," Gibson said. "Throughout the whole game on both sides, you saw batsmen wearing a few. India didn't complain and we didn't either."

South Africa have an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, but are seeking a first ever clean-sweep over India.