Cricket 25.1.2018 05:35 pm

It’s a game of inches on a treacherous Wanderers pitch

Hashim Amla was a class act on a difficult surface for the Proteas. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Hashim Amla was a class act on a difficult surface for the Proteas. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Wickets again fall regularly between the Proteas and India as the question marks continue to mount over the surface.

Any cricket fans that want to witness a feast of runs can now write off the Test series between the Proteas and India.

The second day of the third and final Test here on Thursday confirmed that as another 10 wickets fell following the opening day’s 11.

Worst of all, if Newlands and Centurion’s pitches were considered challenging, this Wanderers surface is downright ghastly.

India ended the day on 49/1 in their second innings – a lead of 42 – to mask some of the damage but that was more down to the Protea bowlers perhaps bowling a tad too short and wide.

The reality is, this pitch completes a pretty unsatisfactory summer for Cricket South Africa and the respective groundsmen.

Faf du Plessis may indeed have a point when he says this is becoming a problem.

There are patches of green grass but, disturbingly, they share their space with bouts of dead grass.

Cracks are showing, certain deliveries snake back alarmingly and the bounce is already variable.

Just ask Du Plessis himself.

The Proteas skipper wanted to leave a wide-ish delivery from the impressive Jasprit Bumrah (5/54) but the angle of the delivery meant it skidded back and didn’t bounce as expected.

His stumps were shattered.

But there were some examples of supreme skill, like the ball Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/44) produced to castled AB de Villiers, a beautiful in-swinger from outside off that hit middle and leg.

Amidst the carnage, the value of Hashim Amla was once again laid bare.

His dogged 61 was a magnificent effort, a classy example of how to counter the difficult surface.

He did so by trying to smother deliveries by moving outside off-stump.

Amla’s tactic certainly did have its risks as he twice survived very close LBW shouts which were upheld by the dreaded Umpire’s Call protocol.

Yet his contribution was undeniable.

Kagiso Rabada (30) looked clueless early on but settled down to play a vital nightwatchman cameo.

Some of his play on the leg-side was quite dreamy.

Vernon Philander was typically gutsy in cracking five fours in his 35, at times also looking like he was playing on a different pitch but his hook to deep fine leg looked was wasteful and probably the main reason why the Proteas were restricted to 194, just seven more than India.

He completed a good day with the wicket of Parthiv Patel before the visitors settled down.

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