The test that (almost) never was

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Bangalore

THIS is becoming the test that (almost) never was – for a third day running in Bangalore on Tuesday, rain and its effects prevented any play.

Yes, India really are still 80 without loss in reply to SA’s first innings of 214, a scoreline that has been stuck in the mud since Saturday evening.

Tuesday dawned grey under a duvet of cloud, but dry. However, Monday night’s rain on an already wet field pushed the start back to 2pm, and minutes before the clock reached that hour the drizzle returned and with it the covers. At 2.30pm came the by now familiar announcement that play had been abandoned for the day.

Worryingly in terms of prospects for Wednesday, only the lightest dose of rain was needed for the umpires to make their decision.

On Monday, this match became the first in the 21 tests played at the M Chinnaswamy stadium since the inaugural game in November 1974 to sacrifice two consecutive days to the weather.

Another day, another record. But there will be no cheers for this hattrick, especially not from Bangaloreans – 22 600 of whom were in the stands on Saturday to lend the match a visceral atmosphere that South African aficionados of test cricket can only imagine.

Such niceties won’t count for much in SA’s dressingroom, where there will be relief at the impending draw. The visitors played poor cricket in Mohali, where they lost by 108 runs, and they have here, where they are about to get out of jail.

What is now a three-match series thus moves to Nagpur, where the third test will start next Wednesday with SA battling to stay alive and India intent on settling the issue.

Of course, that’s if Indian captain Virat Kohli, an admitted aggressor, doesn’t do something interesting on Wednesday. What were the chances of, for instance, him declaring those 134 runs behind and seeing how many more cracks Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja open in SA’s confidence?

“I think we will make our plans as and when we know how many overs are remaining in the game,” India’s fielding coach, Ramakrishnan Sridhar, said. “According to that, we will probably take a call and work out what gameplan we should have.”

Thanks for nothing, coach. But that was the only question pertaining to the match asked in a press conference that veered onto all sorts of tenuous tangents, proving that even the Indian media had lost interest.

The first of the irrelevancies put to Sridhar – something about close-in fielders and strewn with “sort of” and “what if” – meandered for a full 44 seconds. And there was more than 14 meaningless minutes where that came from.

Easily the most memorable aspect of Sridhar’s appearance was that the lights went out as he spoke. He continued mouthing mundanities into the blackness unperturbed until power was restored.

By then, the Saffers were on the way back to their hotel having, for the second straight day, not bothered to talk to the press.

Thanks for the honesty, fellas. If there’s nothing to say, there really is nothing to say.

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