With South Africa 224 runs away from the win, the third delivery of the ninth over by Jasprit Bumrah struck the helmet of Proteas' opener Dean Elgar. The delivery could turn deadly for the southpaw batsman on the third day of the third and final Test at the New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, on Friday.
The pitch was reacting shockingly since the start of the day. Elgar must be thanking the God at the moment as he is alive after taking that blow on the head. It was a short ball, outside off. Elgar looked to hop and fend but the ball bounced out of nowhere. It went above the glove and hit him right above the grille of the helmet.
Elgar straightaway took his helmet and gloves off and called for the physio. Ajinkya Rahane, who scored an impressive 48-run knock for India, was the first one to check with Elgar. Watching this, Hashim Amla, from the other end, came over.
Following the accident, the umpires got together for a chat while Elgar received immediate medical attention.
Former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding termed the surface at Wanderers "dangerous". "This pitch, I think, is dangerous. I would hate to be a batsman on this pitch given what I am seeing happening out there at the moment on the third day of a Test match," Holding told PTI.
"Look, I am happy with lateral movement like we saw in the first Test (at Cape Town). I have no problem with that. But when balls start exploding off a length and people start getting hit left, right and centre, I don't think that's a good pitch," he added.
The Wanderers' pitch has come under criticism from former cricketers and commentators for its dangerous nature.
The talk of the entire third day was about the uneven bounce of the track with some of the cracks on a good length and short of it opening up.
As many as three Indian and one South African batsmen were hit on day three as the ball rose from good length area.
Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli were hit on their hands in the morning session, in the 31st and 35th overs respectively, while Ajinkya Rahane was hit too post lunch, in the 58th over. All instances happened off the bowling of Kagiso Rabada.
Later in the day chasing 241 runs for a win, Deal Elgar was struck on his hand by Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the third over of their second innings.
Earlier in the day, two umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould had a long chat in the middle and inspected the pitch before play resumed. Surprisingly, there is no official word from the match referee on this issue yet.
Holding, here on commentary duty with official broadcaster Super Sport, also criticised the pitch on air as well.
He rated the pitch "2 out of 100" and called for the abandonment of the game as early as the pre-lunch session.
"They should have called it off when (Murali) Vijay got hit," Holding later explained, off air.
"This is not a cricket pitch, this is dangerous. Call it off, forget it. You can't play cricket on that. I have no idea what has gone wrong but I know it's not a good cricket pitch," he said.
"The last time I saw something like this, the match was abandoned in Jamaica in 1998, and it didn't even last this long."
From the beginning of the match, the ball was kicking off a length from Corlett Drive End but on Day 3 the ball started rearing up from Golf Course End as well.
This behaviour of the wicket also drew sharp criticism from other former cricketers, also here on commentary duty.
"Uneven bounce is the problem, not lateral movement. It is quite dangerous from a batting point of view when you have tall bowlers hitting the deck hard and bowling around 140. It is dangerous and it's not ideal," said former South African captain Kepler Wessels.
"We want a good contest between bat and ball, and this pitch is not providing that. I would give it 3 out of 10."
Former South African captain Shaun Pollock had deemed it a bad pitch as early as day two and agreed with both Holding and Wessels that the game should be abandoned.
Former Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar, also here on commentary duty with Super Sport, criticised the inconsistent bounce of the track but didn't go as far as calling for the match to be abandoned.
"The Indian batsmen should be commended for scoring 240- odd because it is a difficult pitch no doubt. No batsman can feel certain on a wicket like this and the unpredictable bounce makes it dangerous as well. But I don't think the match should be abandoned," Gavaskar told PTI, just as Elgar was hit by Bhuvneshwar early in South Africa's second innings.
(With PTI inputs)