Not a ball bowled at Newlands on Sunday‚ but plenty left in the match

07 January 2018 - 17:20 By Telford Vice
Ground staff workers are seen as they try to sweep water on the pitch after play was delayed due to rain.
Ground staff workers are seen as they try to sweep water on the pitch after play was delayed due to rain.
Image: REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

The only action on the third day of the first test between South Africa and India at Newlands on Sunday began unfolding at 3.30pm and was over within 10 minutes.

First one pitch invader clambered over the boundary fence‚ then another and another and still another.

The fourth of them‚ wearing a fake Hashim Amla tribute beard‚ proved the most successful.

He made it all the way across the ground‚ sidestepping orange-bibbed tacklers as he went‚ and successfully leapt the fence.

Remarkably he kept his composure well enough‚ even after goosing himself on a metal bannister‚ to evade another posse of security guards trying to head him off at the pass on the other side.

And all the while the scoreboard glowered down in vivid disgust‚ refusing to countenance the fact that anything noteworthy had happened since South Africa reached stumps on Saturday on 65/2 in their second innings for a lead of 142.

In the cause of reaching a result‚ losing an entire day’s play is never a good thing. But in this case there are special circumstances.

Helped by 13 wickets falling on Friday‚ the match advanced faster than it might have normally and — given better weather on Monday and Tuesday — winning and losing remain firmly part of the equation.

Even the absence from South Africa’s attack of Dale Steyn‚ who injured a heel on Saturday‚ shouldn’t have too big an adverse effect on their chances of surging for victory.

The home side went into the match with four fast bowlers‚ and the survivors aren’t too shabby: Vernon Philander‚ Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel.

Once the pitch invaders had come and gone on Sunday‚ or rather been taken away‚ groundsman Evan Flint took an umbrella out to the middle to have a chat with the umpires‚ Richard Kettleborough and Michael Gough.

“I told them I would need an hour — maybe an hour-and-a-half — to get the ground ready‚” Flint said. “But they felt there was more rain on the way.”

Maybe the umpires should have listened to Flint. Just more than an hour after play was abandoned‚ and with almost 90 minutes of play theoretically possible and the stop-start drizzle having finally dried up‚ the sun broke through the thick cloud that had kept Table Mountain hidden from view since the morning.

A sprinkling more rain is forecast for daybreak on Monday‚ but then the south-easter is due to pick up and blow the wet stuff away.

Then the pitch will be invaded legitimately as India’s bowlers let fly once more at nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada‚ who is working overtime for his two not out‚ and Hashim Amla‚ on four.

Hardik Pandya‚ who hammered a fearless 93 in India’s first innings of 209‚ has claimed the wickets of Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar and will be on the prowl for more.

But Amla‚ denied on Sunday what would have been the best batting conditions of the match‚ will have something to say — and do — about that.