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Safety of pitch called into question as South Africa seek series whitewash

Proteas had reached 17 for one in their pursuit of 241 against India.

The safety of the pitch in Johannesburg was called into question as play was halted shortly before the close of day three of the third and final Test between South Africa and India.

South Africa had reached 17 for one in their pursuit of 241 for a 3-0 series whitewash when umpires Ian Gould and Aleem Dar led the players off after 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 at the Wanderers, stumps were called.

However, no decision has been announced as to whether the match will continue after a day in which players from both teams took blows on a surface that was becoming increasingly unpredictable.

According to International Cricket Council 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.”

The umpires seemed to discuss the situation on several occasions as the day unfolded but it was only when Elgar was struck on the front of the helmet, only a few overs after being rapped on the thumb by a Bhuvneshwar Kumar delivery, that they took action.

A number of Indian batsmen showed no lack of courage, with the recalled Ajinkya Rahane a standout as he defied the pitch and some hostile bowling from the Proteas pacemen to top score with 48, which could prove decisive if the Test goes into a fourth day.

His efforts, plus 41 from captain Virat Kohli and a gutsy 33 from Kumar, lifted India to 247 all out in their second innings.

All the talk was on the uneven bounce of the pitch, though, and ICC sanctions will likely follow if the Test is abandoned.

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