The third and final Test between South Africa and India will resume as scheduled on Saturday after day three was curtailed early due to fears about the safety of the Johannesburg pitch.
Cracks in the Wanderers surface had led to uneven and inconsistent bounce, and umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar led the players off after Proteas opener Dean Elgar took a flush blow to his helmet from a Jasprit Bumrah bouncer.
A meeting was held between the umpires and the two captains in the match referee’s room and, with rain starting to fall, stumps were called with South Africa on 17 for one in pursuit of 241 for a 3-0 series whitewash.
The fate of the Test was uncertain but the International Cricket Council later clarified that the match would proceed after a day in which players from both teams had taken knocks to the body.
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. (1/3)— ICC Media (@ICCMediaComms) January 26, 2018
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 (2/3)— ICC Media (@ICCMediaComms) January 26, 2018
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. (3/3)— ICC Media (@ICCMediaComms) January 26, 2018
The umpires seemed to discuss the state of the pitch on several occasions as the day unfolded but it was only when Elgar was struck on the front of the helmet, the fourth time he had been hit in his 32-ball innings, that they took action.
According to ICC rules, law 6.4 pertaining to the pitch states: “If the on-field umpires decide that it is dangerous or unreasonable for play to continue on the match pitch, they shall stop play and immediately advise the ICC match referee.
“The on-field umpires and the ICC match referee shall then consult with both captains. If the captains agree to continue, play shall resume. If the decision is not to resume play, the on-field umpires together with the ICC match referee shall consider whether the existing pitch can be repaired and the match resumed from the point it was stopped.
“In considering whether to authorise such repairs, the ICC match referee must consider whether this would place either side at an unfair advantage, given the play that had already taken place on the dangerous pitch. If the decision is that the existing pitch cannot be repaired, then the match is to be abandoned as a draw.”
That's it from the @BullringZA for today. Play has been called off. First the pitch held up play and then after some rain. SA under pressure at the moment after closing on 17/1. Target 241 #SAvIND #SunfoilTest #FreedomSeries pic.twitter.com/s0kn0lmtP6— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) January 26, 2018
A number of Indian batsmen showed no lack of courage, with the recalled Ajinkya Rahane a standout as he defied the conditions and some hostile bowling from the Proteas pacemen to top score with 48.
His efforts, plus 41 from captain Virat Kohli and a gutsy 33 from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, lifted India to 247 all out in their second innings.
All the talk was on the unpredictable nature of the pitch, though, and ICC sanctions are likely to follow the conclusion of the Test.
Only two other Tests have been abandoned because of dangerous playing conditions – both in the West Indies, in Jamaica in 1998 and Antigua 11 years later.