India must be the favourites to claim nine wickets on an explosive pitch and win the match on day four at the Wanderers.
Eyebrows were raised when Virat Kohli won the toss and opted to bat on day one. From the outset, the pitch at the Wanderers has offered the seamers significant assistance and batting has been difficult – as seen by the totals posted in the first, second, and third innings (187, 194, and 247).
Conditions have deteriorated over the subsequent two days. The pitch was an absolute snake pit on day three. India batsmen were hit repeatedly by balls that exploded off a length, and the game was stopped after Proteas opener Dean Elgar was struck on the helmet towards the end of the third session.
Following a series of meetings involving the umpires, the match referee, and the captains, the decision has been taken to push forward with this contest. The umpires will, however, continue to monitor the state of the pitch over the course of day four.
India are in a commanding position. They’ve set South Africa a target of 241, a formidable target given the conditions at the ground. They must be favourites to claim the remaining nine wickets and win the Test from here.
There has been some rain in Johannesburg this morning. When play eventually resumes, the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Sami should get the ball to swing in the overcast conditions. The ball is less than nine overs old.
Jasprit Bumrah was responsible for the delivery that hit Elgar on the helmet and brought the game to a halt. Television replays showed that Bumrah had dug the ball in short and that Elgar had failed to adjust in time.
However, we’ve already seen dozens of deliveries exploding off a good length in this game. Bumrah is a tall man, and will cause problems for the Proteas batsmen if he gets the ball to bounce steeply from that area.
It will be interesting to see how the Proteas go about their innings. They cannot afford to be too defensive. If anything, they should do their best to unsettle the India bowlers from the outset.
Elgar is a tough character, and has played some gritty innings in the past. So too Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers. Hashim Amla was the standout player for the Proteas in the first dig, using his feet well to negate the movement and frustrate the bowlers.
Perhaps the Proteas will take heart from India’s performance with the bat on day three. Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane weathered the initial storm, and then proceeded to score at a relatively good rate. Later in the innings, Kumar and Shami took the fight to the bowlers. The visitors added 44 runs for the last three wickets.
MICHAEL HOLDING: Wanderers’ pitch its s**t
The first session on day four will be crucial. If the Proteas can come through that period relatively unscathed, they will continue to believe that they can win this game and complete a 3-0 whitewash of the No 1-ranked Test team. At this point, however, India are the favourites to claim a consolation victory.
India 187 (1st innings) – Virat Kohli 54, Cheteshwar Pujara 50, Kagiso Rabada 3-39, Andile Phehlukwayo 2-25
SA 194 (1st innings) – Hashim Amla 61, Vernon Philander 35, Jasprit Bumrah 5-54, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3-44
India 247 (2nd innings) – Ajinkya Rahane 48, Virat Kohli 41, Kagiso Rabada 3-69, Morne Morkel 2-47
SA 17-1 (2nd innings) – Dean Elgar 11 not out, Mohammed Shami 1-7
South Africa need 224 runs to win
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