Rain frustrates Indian batsmen, Olivier's absence clarified

·3-min read
India's hopes of building a formidable first innings total were frustrated by the weather on the second day of the first Test with South Africa play being abandoned in the early afternoon (AFP/Christiaan Kotze)

India's bid to post a daunting first innings total in the first Test against South Africa suffered a blow when rain prevented any play on the second day at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Monday.

The tourists, seeking their first series win in South Africa, were in a strong position at 272 for three at the end of the first day on Sunday but were unable to build on the platform set by KL Rahul (122 not out) and the other Indian batsmen.

It was raining at the scheduled start of play on Monday but although there were some brighter intervals, further rain together with a wet outfield caused the umpires to call off play for the day in the early afternoon.

An extra half hour or eight overs of play will be added on the remaining three days, making for a possible 98 overs a day, but Monday’s wash-out effectively means 66 overs have been lost.

Tuesday is predicted to be fine but there could be thunder showers on Wednesday and Thursday.

While India’s batting was praised by commentators, including Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar, South Africa's bowling was unimpressive.

Fast bowler Lungi Ngidi was the one exception taking all three wickets while conceding only 45 runs.

- 'Healthy and well' -

The omission of fast bowler Duanne Olivier was a major talking point on Sunday.

However, South African selection convener Victor Mpitsang explained on Monday Olivier's preparation had been hampered by a Covid-19 infection and a slight hamstring injury.

Olivier was the form bowler of the South African domestic season leading up to the Test series, with 28 wickets at an average of 11.10 in four first-class matches.

With his ability to intimidate batsmen with fast, short-pitched deliveries, Olivier had been expected to play a key role in the Test team, especially after Anrich Nortje, the country’s fastest bowler, was ruled out of the series with a hip injury.

Olivier took 48 wickets in ten Tests before joining English county Yorkshire on a Kolpak contract in 2019.

With the Kolpak system coming to an end, he once again became available for South Africa.

There was no explanation for Olivier's absence when the team was announced, nor did the bowler indicate any possible barrier to him playing when Cricket South Africa released a recording of comments made by him last Thursday.

But Mpitsang confirmed a report in The Citizen newspaper and was quoted on the ESPNCricinfo website on Monday as saying illness and injury had meant Olivier was not able to prepare fully for the first Test.

"Duanne Olivier is healthy and well but did return a positive Covid-19 test result a number of weeks ago, which forced him to quarantine and took time away from his training," Mpitsang told the website.

"His workloads were not where the selection panel would have wanted them to be by the time he entered the team bubble ahead of the first Test match.

"He picked up a hamstring niggle during the two-day, inter-squad match at the start of the camp and the selectors did not want to risk him unnecessarily when there are two more Test matches to think about."

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