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NEW DELHI: Late into the third day’s play, South Africa opener Dean Elgar was hit on the helmet grill by a rising delivery which prompted the umpires to take the players off the field. Eventually, after discussions between the two on-field umpires, captains of the two teams and the match referee, the stumps were drawn with the pitch being put under covers following a light drizzle.
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South Africa were 17/1, chasing 241 runs, when in the ninth over, Elgar failed to negotiate with a short delivery, bowled by Jasprit Bumrah and the ball hit him on the helmet. The South African took off his helmet and immediately team physio was pressed into service. The two umpires held a brief discussion following which the players walked back to the dressing rooms. A decision on the fate of the Test will be taken on Saturday morning
The uneven bounce remained a concern throughout the day’s play. However, the delivery that struck Elgar wasn’t because of the pitch misbehaving. In fact, he was found awkwardly dealing with the bounce on previous occasions.
But the Indian batsmen braved it out earlier with their lower order pushing the lead to 240 runs. The tail wagged and wagged enough to frustrate South Africa as India were all out for 247 in their second innings. Crucial contributions from Bhuvneshwar Kumar (33) and Mohammed Shami (27) helped them set South Africa a challenging target on a surface which has come under heavy scrutiny for its erratic nature.
Ajinkya Rahane punctuated his importance with a flowing innings that ended on 48 thanks to a brilliant diving catch from wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock. When Rahane departed, India were 203/7 and with a lead of 196. Shami struck two sixes and a four during a breezy 28-ball 27 to further the home team’s agony as the lead went past 230 runs. By the time Bumrah was out for a duck, India’s lower order had done well in tough conditions to move their team into a strong position.
As has been the theme of the Test, there were plenty of unplayable deliveries that went past the bat safely or landed safely after hitting the bat. But the Indians did well to counter the seaming deliveries, playing forward and forcing the pacers to change their lengths. Kohli kick-started the morning session dispatching a short delivery through gully for four and when Vernon Philander bowled full searching for some swing, drove him through covers. He nearly chopped one back onto the stumps and then went past MS Dhoni’s record of most runs as India test captain with a single to move to 40. However, after adding a single to his total, Kagiso Rabada slipped in a cutter that sneaked through Kohli’s defences and crashed on the off stump.
There were concerns about the condition of the pitch offering uneven bounce even prompting some repair work during the lunch break. There were less instances of the ball rising dangerously though but the ball was rearing off the pitch quite often. Rahane had a nervy start to his innings before settling in. He pulled one from Morne Morkel that fell safely to fine leg region after taking the top-edge. Then he received another short delivery in the same over which flew over backward square leg but landed safely. Those jittery moments were enough for Rahane to get a hang of the pitch.
Soon he was playing drives, cutting uppishly, not fearing to play in the air. He had Hardik Pandya for company who copped a blow to his left glove before ducking to avoid a bouncer, both from Rabada. He would later fall to the same bowler, a one-handed catch in follow through, to walk back on 4.
Rahane meanwhile, hit two fours off Philander in an over and crashed one through covers off Rabada to continue his momentum. He also was hit on his elbow once and when again one delivery rose dangerously to hit him on the handle, the umpire had a brief chat before opting to continue.
Rahane though found a perfect partner in Bhuvneshwar Kumar with whom he has stitched an unbeaten 51-run stand for the 7th wicket. That they were able to do so was in part thanks to butter-fingered South African fielders who grassed easy catches to get rid of Bhunveshwar and Rahane in the space of six deliveries and thus extended their disappointing performance in the field in the ongoing Test.
And in their chase, the hosts lost opener Aiden Markram (4) early with Shami striking early before the play was halted.