Let's not belittle the art of pitch-making

It was thrill a minute, make no mistake. Every time a partnership reached ten, you felt the bowling side had squeaky bums because they didn't have too many to play with; you can never have too many to play with on such pitches.

Every time a wicket fell, it seemed one could bring three, and all of a sudden the batting side seemed in crisis. This brought out a highly skilled innings from Hashim Amla which, irrespective of the result, will be one for the ages. It has produced one of the more memorable displays of defensive batting, discipline and concentration. It has produced a one-innings shootout that fans from both the sides will be watching, through the cracks between their fingers, hiding behind their couches. It will be an unpopular opinion for a pitch that has given us such an exciting match, but the advantage for bowlers - of one variety - seems to have gone too far.

If you are looking for a fair contest between bat and ball, if you are looking for most facets of our sport getting some chance at display, if you are looking for bowlers setting up batsmen, if you are looking for batsmen punishing lack of accuracy, this pitch wasn't for you.

No side played a spinner here. What you got was most batsmen not venturing to hit balls that were half-bad because the bounce was unpredictable and the seam was exaggerated. What you also got was bowlers from both sides bowling too short and too wide for fear of being driven on a pitch where they didn't have the runs to afford a period of setting batsmen up. One boundary is almost like ten runs your batsmen will have to get later.

It does turn cricket into a bit of a lottery, reducing the difference between the quality of two sides. Just as you don't want lesser batsmen scoring runs on flat tracks, you don't want lesser bowlers looking like demons on these pitches.

We also had injured batsmen, not because they didn't have the skill to face the pace, but because of the uneven bounce and the seam movement. You don't hope for it to make a point, but this could become a dangerous pitch by the time the final innings arrives. Playing such high pace of such accuracy is hard enough and a skill taken for granted at the best of times, never mind when you are in no position to judge the movement, the pace and the bounce off the surface.

There will be obvious comparisons with Nagpur 2015-16 and Pune 2016-17, both of which were rated poor by the ICC. The comparisons won't come from the team. Not yet, at least. India are in a good position in the match, and their focus will be on not squandering this opportunity. Jasprit Bumrah said as much. The pitch has clearly been made to order, although it is possible South Africa didn't want it to be this extreme. During this series, the demand for spicy pitches has been as unsubtle as the disappointment with the Centurion surface. So don't expect them to compare this to Nagpur, where they played.

Once in a while, these pitches can be fun to watch cricket on, but there is a risk of them becoming more than once-a-season occurrences. India coach Ravi Shastri took one look of this surface and his first reaction was: good, now they can't complain about the pitches I will get made at home.

There is no mistaking this is a reaction to the pitches South Africa encountered in India. They didn't win a toss there, they didn't have the spinners who could bowl accurately, but they still often had India's batting in trouble. That should have been a lesson for South Africa; these pitches bring opposition bowlers into the game and nullify the experience your bowlers have of bowling on home tracks. But sometimes - especially with the series sealed - you can go too far when looking for revenge. That seems to have happened here. There should also be allowance made for pitch-making being an inexact science. It was a lesson India learnt the hard way in Pune against Australia, or possibly the lesson was delivered and not necessarily learnt.

If South Africa do manage to come out of victorious in this match, you can only imagine what India's reaction will be. Shastri and Virat Kohli might ask for the wrestling pits of Haryana to be dropped into various venues. The return trip to South Africa might be played on granite slabs with artificial grass. Pitch-making is an art and a balancing act; at its best it is true to the nature of the geography, provides as even a contest between bat and ball as possible, and offers the home team some advantage. Let's not belittle it.