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India vs South Africa: Time for Vijay & Rahul to Stamp Class on Customised Bowling Pitch at Wanderers

The ideal pitch as per South Africa skipper Faf Du Plessis is one that offers pace, bounce and some seam movement, but nothing extreme. In fact, speaking in press conferences right through the ongoing three-match series against India, du Plessis has spoken on how the first two Test wickets – in Cape Town and Centurion – were sporting wickets slightly favouring the home team.

Baidurjo Bhose |Cricketnext |January 26, 2018, 8:53 AM IST
India vs South Africa: Time for Vijay & Rahul to Stamp Class on Customised Bowling Pitch at Wanderers

Johannesburg: The ideal pitch as per South Africa skipper Faf Du Plessis is one that offers pace, bounce and some seam movement, but nothing extreme. In fact, speaking in press conferences right through the ongoing three-match series against India, du Plessis has spoken on how the first two Test wickets – in Cape Town and Centurion – were sporting wickets slightly favouring the home team. Taking an indirect dig at India for preparing rank turners when they toured India in 2015, du Plessis has spoken about how there has been a constant battle between bat and ball.

But looks like his own teammates do not feel the same way about the customized seaming track produced for the Proteas at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg for the third Test. While du Plessis believes that these wickets fall under the category of ‘tough to bat’, former South Africa skipper Hashim Amla has called it one of the spiciest pitches he had played on. Coming from a man who has played 112 Test matches, this surely means that the 'doctored' wicket doesn't fall under the category of wickets which produce a 'battle between bat and ball'.

10 wickets fell on the second day of the Test with just 237 runs being scored in the day. More than that, Amla got hit on the ribs, AB de Villiers caught one on the gloves, Morne Morkel got a couple on the gloves, Vernon Philander got hit a few times and as if it was poetic justice and du Plessis got out shouldering arms with one that had pitched almost on the fifth stump and cut back in viciously to take the top of the off-stump. As Amla rightly told the hosts broadcasters after the day’s play, the ball was ‘shooting harmfully’ at times.

"It's probably one of the spiciest wickets that I've played on. There have been a couple over the last one or two years that have been quite difficult. In England there were one or two. It's quite challenging. It's quite a spicy wicket. No one can hide from the fact that you can get out every ball. By the same token, it's challenging as a batsman. Sometimes we get onto wickets that are pretty flat and you can score lots of runs. The bowlers are having their ice-cold cool drink and enjoying it. It is just quite difficult to bat, whether it’s too excessive or not, if you ask a batsman what do you think they will say?" Amla smiled at the end of the second day’s action.

In fact, Jasprit Bumrah – who took his first five-for in Test cricket -- too said that the wicket was really not allowing a ‘battle between bat and ball’.

"Yeah, it is a little different. We haven't played on such a wicket, I would say that. But we are not too critical of the pitch because the match is going on, we can't stray away from the topic. So that is the basic plan -- don't focus on the wicket. We are focusing on what we have to do right now. It's a little difficult to say that (pitch allows equal contest between bat and ball) because some balls are up and down so that could be dangerous sometimes for the batsman," he explained.

It is indeed very surprising how this is then not a ‘poor’ wicket. But that doesn’t take anything away from the beautiful spells from not just Bumrah and Bhuveshwar Kumar (3/44), but also from Ishant Sharma. Ishant might have picked just one wicket, but he consistently hit the right areas and had the batsmen hopping around. Had Mohammed Shami shown the rhythm that is expected of him, India could well have bundled the hosts out for 150 – as expressed by Cheteshwar Pujara as the ideal score that the visitors would like to restrict South Africa to.

But sadly, out of the 10 wickets he has picked in the series so far, seven have come in the second innings. More importantly, he has looked just as mediocre in the first innings as he has looked menacing in the second innings. Yet, Bumrah stood by his pace spearhead and said: “We don’t work like that. On another day maybe he (Shami) will get more wickets, but we want to contribute as a pack. We wanted to create pressure as a pack,” he said.

Coming back to the match, what this also does is that it provides both Murali Vijay and KL Rahul to stamp their class with gritty knocks on what looks like a wicket that should ideally get curator Bethuel Buthelezi a warning from the ICC. Having failed to provide the perfect start in the second Test, after Rahul replaced Shikhar Dhawan at the top, the two batsmen are looking in fine touch at the end of the day’s play on Thursday with Vijay unbeaten on 13 and Rahul unbeaten on 16.

They have done the hardwork and this is their opportunity to show the cricketing world that they have the mettle to strike it big at the top level when faced with adversity. The conditions are not conducive to batting, yet Vijay has played 49 balls and Rahul has played 38 balls. And there can possibly be no bigger motivation than the fact that if these two bat out the first session on Friday, there is no way that the Indians will lose this game. But the question is, till when can they avoid that ball which has their name written on it? Only time will tell.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5211 116
2 New Zealand 3959 110
3 Australia 4320 108
4 England 5253 105
5 South Africa 3537 98
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Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6967 124
2 India 7939 118
3 New Zealand 5347 116
4 South Africa 5602 112
5 Australia 5915 110
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Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8926 270
2 Australia 7815 269
3 England 6407 267
4 India 12141 264
5 South Africa 6220 259
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