Persistent rain throughout the day at Newlands prevented a ball being bowled on Sunday, halting South Africa’s progress in the opening Test of the three-match series.
The final two days are forecast to be dry as the top two teams in the ICC Test rankings face off.
Faf du Plessis’ men remain stranded at 65-2 with an overall lead of 142 in their second innings with two days to go in the Test.
With 22 wickets falling in the opening two days and a much positive weather forecast for the fourth day, a result still seems highly likely in this thriller of a Test between the world’s two top-ranked sides.
South Africa’s highly touted pace battery decimated the Indian top-order but a fighting counter-attacking knock of 93 by young all-rounder Hardik Pandya on the second day has given Virat Kohli’s men a glimmer of hope in the first Test.
With Proteas pacer Dale Steyn breaking down in his return to Test cricket after over a year out with a shoulder injury, the Proteas attack will be one bowler short when they come out to bowl in the final innings.
Steyn has been ruled out for the rest of the match and faces the prospect of missing the rest of the three-match series in an unfortunate return to international cricket.
Australia were six wickets away from a victory in the final Test after having declared their first innings at 649-7. Having given up a 303-run lead in the first innings, England were 93-4 when stumps was called on Sunday.
With the curtains set to come down on the Ashes 2017-18 on Monday, we look at the key talking points of day four.
MARSH BROTHERS MAKE HISTORY WITH TWIN TONS
The Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell, have repaid the faith the Australian selectors have shown by their inclusion in the Ashes squad. Their selections had been the topic of much debate at the start of the series but will now go down as a masterstroke as we come to the end.
On Sunday, Shaun registered his sixth Test ton in the very first over of the day with a crisp cover-drive off Moeen Ali. The brotherly love would be very much evident later when younger sibling Mitchell would reach his second three-figure score in the series and in his career. The brothers’ celebration in the midst of completing the run might have given Steve Smith some anxious moments in the dressing room but it was a moment of vindication for the Marshes who have divided opinions ever since making their debuts.
The siblings became the third Australian brothers to score a century each in the same Test innings after the Chappells and the Waughs, writing themselves into trivia books to come in the future.
CRANE’S BAPTISM OF FIRE
The 20-year-old leg-spinner had become the youngest specialist spinner to play for England in over 90 years at the Sydney Cricket Ground when he was handed over his maiden Test cap on Thursday.
He had an eventful third day where he thought he had picked up his maiden Test wicket when he had Usman Khawaja wrapped on the pads. Initially adjudged not out, Joe Root reviewed that decision only for replays to show that Crane had just marginally overstepped. Ball-tracking showed the leg-spinner would have got his man but just like Craig Overton and Ben Stokes, Crane joined a list of England debutants who have missed out on their first Test dismissal due to a no-ball.
Ultimately, Crane finished with figures of 1-193, the worst returns by an Englishman on Test debut and the fifth most expensive of all time. He however, can take comfort in the fact that Shane Warne, the greatest leg-spinner that ever has been, finished with figures of 1-150 in his first Test outing.
STONEMAN AND VINCE FAIL AGAIN
Mark Stoneman and James Vince have had a fairly disappointing debut Ashes series after having started with much promise. The England opener and the number three batsman have failed to convert most of their starts in the five Tests into big scores with only three fifties to show between them.
Both hand the chance to make some amends in their final innings of the tour but it turned out to be much of the same. Stoneman was lbw for a duck to Mitchell Starc while Vince was caught at slip for 18 off the bowling of Pat Cummins.
That both the batsmen end the series with averages between 25 and 30 tells you all you need to know about their middling tour. Their failure to contribute big has meant that the burden of scoring runs has only increased on England’s other batsmen. When England’s selectors sit down to perform an autopsy of the largely shambolic tour, Stoneman’s and Vince’s spot in the squad will be one of the first to be questioned.
ROOT’S LAST CHANCE TO MAKE A MARK
It has been a tour to forget for the England skipper in his maiden Ashes series as leader of the pack. While his side have been completely blown away by the Aussies, Root has struggled to put down his marker individually too. With four scores of fifty plus but no century, it has largely been a lack of conversion which has earned Root a massive wave of criticism while his opposite counterpart Smith has landed one big score after another as if it was going out of fashion.
The 27-year-old was resolute on Sunday with his unbeaten 42 giving England some hope of saving the Test after being reduced to 2-15 with half-an-hour of their final innings. With an entire day’s play still to go, Root and the rest of England’s batsmen have it all to do to even dream about salvaging a draw.
However, it the skipper can register his first ton of the series and guide the tourists to safety, he can exercise some of his demons. It will take a Herculean effort from Root on Monday but once again, the gauntlet has been laid down and it is up to the right-hander to pick it up.
The right-handed batsman was dismissed for 26 runs in the visitors’ first innings in the opening Test between the two sides at Newlands in Cape Town.
Pujara fell to Vernon Philander on the second day as India were bowled out for 209 in reply to South Africa’s first innings total of 286.
“This is one of the best bowling attacks I’ve faced. You know that is their strength and you need to know how to counter-attack,” he said on Saturday.
The hosts were batting on 65-2 at the end of the third day’s play, an overall lead of 142 and the Indian batsman believes his side can chase down 350 if it came down to it in their final innings.
“Overall, I think we played well today and we are very much in the game. We got two wickets today and if we bowl well tomorrow, and if we are chasing somewhere around 350, I think, we are very much in the game,” Pujara stated.
With the hosts evidently on the front foot after the opening two days, Pujara and team India were handed some respite on Sunday as heavy rain and a wet outfield delayed the start of the third day at Newlands.