South Africa ended day 3 firmly on top as they stretched their lead over 110. Earlier in the day, the Indian team was bundled out by the South African pacers for just 307, conceding a 28-run lead. The pitch at the Centurion has shocked the majority of the players and specially the bowlers.
Morne Morkel who picked up 4 wickets in India’s 1st innings, did not shy away from criticising the pitch and even compared it to the wickets that one gets in the Indian subcontinent.
As reported by the Times of India, the lanky seamer said while speaking to the media at the end of Day 3,
“I’ve played cricket here all my life, and I’ve never seen a wicket like this at the SuperSport Park. It was really hard work. In the heat, with conditions really tough, it was right up there with one of the hardest spells I’ve bowled.”
Speaking further he added, “I think the pace of the wicket was the toughest aspect. You’ve got a small little window with the new ball. The reason might be because it’s under covers overnight, but in the first hour the balls seems a little bit quicker off the deck.
“But after that, there’s actually been no pace in the wicket. It’s important to come out with different sorts of game plans. You need to try a lot of things but we had runs on the board in the first innings to try different things. From a bowling point of view, it is definitely not the ideal sort of surface.”
When questioned regarding the similarities between the pitch at Centurion and the ones he has played on in India, Morkel said, “One hundred percent, yes. It’s unheard of that a spinner bowls that amount of overs on the first day. We even took the option to open in the over before lunch with a spinner (yesterday).
“There’s a very sub-continental feel to it. It is tough to score, and tough to get people out. Luckily we’ve got some experience of that in the bank. But they are not the conditions that we want here in South Africa.”
Day 3 of the 2nd test match was cut short due to the light drizzle and bad light. However, the former KKR bowler was confident that a result in this match was still very much possible. While speaking about the days play, the 33-year-old said, “Obviously, it was important for us to get the breakthrough this morning. We knew, talking last night, if we took two wickets we would be bowling to their tail-enders. So to get those first two – Pandya or Virat or Ashwin – was crucial.
“Luckily by a run out, things changed a little bit. Otherwise, I think it would have been an interesting sort of day. And then with the bat this afternoon, I thought Dean (Elgar) and AB played superbly after losing those two early wickets.
“It was tough, with Ashwin bowling from one end and they had the luxury of rotating their seamers from the top. But the way they stuck out, to have the lead by over 100 tonight is satisfying,”
Discussing the possibility of the result even with the loss of time, Morkel said, “I think definitely a result is very much possible. If they get some early wickets tomorrow, or if we can bat through the first session while not losing many wickets, the game will still be very open.”
“Off the top of my head, I think maybe 250 on Day 5 will be a safe target. With the wicket now turning a little bit and keeping a little bit low, I think 250 can be a very good score,” he further added.
Virat Kohli proved to be a constant thorn in South African plans on Day 3 as he scored a brilliant 153 to take India really close to the total set by Du Plessis’ team. Speaking of the Indian captain’s aggressive approach and his crucial innings, Morkel said, Virat is very competitive. They are over here to compete and they’ve got a team that could potentially beat South Africa for the first time here. That’s his nature.
“It gets him going and keeps him going. We’re well aware of that but we don’t take any notice of it. And if you get a batsman of his quality, you’ve got time to adjust.