TELFORD VICE, Delhi
DAY four! How the hell did we get here? Somehow, the somewhat bitter, never sweet melodrama in three-and-a-bit acts that has been SA’s test series in India boldly went where it had not gone before on Saturday.
For the first time besides the damp draw in Bangalore, three days have not been enough to settle the issue. But India will surely win again and SA will be left to ponder another display of test cricket, how not to play.
This time, the pitch is innocent. It isn’t great, but it isn’t awful. It’s an Indian pitch, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing like the surface on which the home side contrived a tainted victory in Nagpur.
Imagine the schoolyard bully, his mates having pinned down a kid so he could kick him in the gonads unobstructed, demanding that his victim get up and fight, and you have an apt picture of where this series is at.
SA have tried to convince themselves that an irrelevant match was relevant. They have failed, and accordingly they have played poor cricket.
Who can blame them? The contest was culled six days before this game started. Play for pride? Pride is a collective noun for lions. Outside of marketing myths, it has nothing to do with modern sport.
But let’s pretend for a moment. This morning, India will resume 403 runs ahead – already 127 more than has been scored to win a test here.
In 81 overs of treading water on Saturday, India oozed 190 runs – 83 of them by Virat Kohli in an unbroken stand of 133 with Ajinkya Rahane, who was 52 not out – and lost four wickets – three of them to Morne Morkel.
“The longer they bat, the happier we are; it takes more overs out of the game,” Kyle Abbott said wearily.
The series itself was captured in a cartoon moment after lunch, when Kohli swished at Imran Tahir and was given out caught behind.
India’s captain stood motionless at the crease, his gloved fists thrust onto his hips haughtily, his sharp little elbows jabbing the air, his sparkplug eyes flaring at Bruce Oxenford much as he glares at anyone who has dared question the quality of the pitches. Just who did this umpire think he was?
Seconds ticked away as Kohli posed for his petulant pout – until Oxenford called for replays that showed Tahir had overstepped.
The Indian media spent much of the day ignoring what was happening out of the pressbox window. Instead, they covered the storm in a manilla envelope that was the late cancellation of a “felicitation ceremony” – yes, that really is what it’s called – for 10 former players that Delhi’s state government had planned for the Ferozeshah Kotla before play on Saturday.
But the secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Anurag Thakur, nixed that idea, citing playing conditions that say the field may not be used for other activities once a match is in progress.
It bears pointing out that Delhi is not controlled by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – which counts Thakur among its members in the Lok Sabha, India’s parliament.
Politics. Intrigue. And day four!