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Super Sopper and a heavy roller paved the way for a famous SA victory

Did judicious use of heavy equipment help the Proteas win at the Wanderers, setting up a tantalising decider in Cape Town?

Day four of the second Test between SA and India was delayed by rain but when the teams finally played, the hosts levelled the series to set up a tantalising decider in Cape Town.
COVERS ON Day four of the second Test between SA and India was delayed by rain but when the teams finally played, the hosts levelled the series to set up a tantalising decider in Cape Town.
Image: Mahlatse Mphahlele

With so much time to ponder the outcome,  everything that could affect the result came under the microscope on day four of the second Test between SA and India on Thursday.

With incessant rain effectively putting paid to the first two sessions, the weather was always going to be a factor in determining whether SA would get sufficient opportunity to chase down the remaining 122 for victory with a day to spare. Conversely, India had set their sights on capturing eight more wickets.

As with parliament recently, there were many burning questions. Would the SA batting unit, in which no-one now averages more than 40, stand up to an India attack that was unlikely to present as many freebies as it did on day three?

In what shape is the ball? To what degree will it bend to the whims of the crafty India attack? In fact, not too long after play resumed and with not much swing on offer India unsuccessfully sought to have the ball changed. But a few overs later they got their wish.

Inevitably too, fourth innings musings tend to turn to the state of the pitch. What lurked beneath the white covers that had remained firmly in place until 3pm also made for lively chatter.

Of course central to that debate was wear and tear, specifically the indentations and cracks, that might set the ball and the match on a different course.

An offshoot of that conversation was which roller had SA asked for in preparation for the resumption of their innings?

Light or heavy

The motorised roller had been doing its 22m back and forth course for some time until one visiting journalist enquired. “Is that the light or heavy roller?”

“Oh, that's the, light roller,” came a response but was soon followed with: “Wait, now I'm having second thoughts.”

The visiting journo sought to solve the mystery elsewhere and enlisted the help of esteemed colleagues down the passage. As former players, commentators are armed with vast institutional knowledge but opinion was divided about the specs of the roller that had been deployed.

Most felt it was the light roller but, significantly, one former Protea whose facial hair may or may not be on his head, believed it to be the heavy roller.

Amid the press box confusion Central Gauteng Lions CEO Jono Leaf-Wright made his customary cheery entrance. “It's the light,” he said with much conviction.

Those who went up in vindicated cheer soon fell silent as Leaf-Wright backtracked. “Wait, let me check,” before calling groundsman Evan Flint who confirmed that it was indeed the heavy roller.

By then it was clear play would restart and final mopping up operations were well under way.

Super effort

There was one final twist, however. The Super Sopper, one of two which had been criss- crossing the field for much of the day as they soaked up the wet patches, came to a grinding halt at more or less short mid-off had a bowler run in from the Corlett Drive End.

Surely what had already seemed like an interminable delay could not be prolonged by overworked heavy equipment? Its driver made three vain attempts get the motor going. The machine, no doubt laden with water, in fact had a dry fuel tank.

Flint was soon to the rescue and the Super Sopper, with a determined purr, chugged towards its parking spot next to the heavy roller to the southeast of the playing surface.

They had done their job. They helped pave the way to a famous South African win.