Sachin Tendulkar couldn't enter at No.4 owing to a time constraint © Getty Images

India's embarrassing display out in the middle today didn't extend merely to bat on ball; it involved a ludicrous six-minute gap between the fall of the second wicket and the arrival of the No 4 batsman, a delay umpire Daryl Harper put down to a team management that should have been more aware.

When Virender Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer departed in quick succession, and with Rahul Dravid in the middle, the South African fielders and the two umpires had an interminable wait. For a while no one knew what was going on, with all eyes trained on the Indian dressing room.

South Africa's fielders got increasingly agitated as time wore on. The three-minute interval after which a played can be timed out came and went, though by then the Indian team management had informed the umpires that there was a problem.

Rajan Nair, the media manager, informed Cricinfo later that the delay had been the result of the time Sachin Tendulkar spent off the field on the third day. Tendulkar was padded up and ready to emerge when Jaffer's wicket fell at 10:43am, but Murray Brown, the fourth umpire, informed him that he wasn't supposed to be out there till after 10:48.

In the resulting pandemonium, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly were asked to pad up. Out on the field, Daryl Harper informed Graeme Smith that the delay was a result of unforeseen circumstances and not a deliberate tactic. In the spirit of the game, he requested Smith not to appeal for a Timed-Out dismissal. Smith agreed.

But by the time Ganguly finally made it to the middle, the clock has just ticked over to 10:49am.

After the day's play, Harper told AFP that the playing conditions were clear - if a player was off the field for longer than eight minutes he had to stay away from the action for the equivalent time before he could bat or bowl - and Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian team management should have been aware of the situation. "That's been in the conditions for as long as I have been around," said Harper, who has been a Test umpire since 1998.

Harper said that after the first Indian wicket fell nine minutes into the day he asked Marais Erasmus, the third umpire, to send a reminder to the Indian dressing room that Tendulkar could not bat until 18 minutes had elapsed.

"It's pretty straightforward really," said Harper. "If a player leaves the field he's got to be responsible for his own actions. I thought I should send a reminder just in case there was any misunderstanding."

Harper said the issue had not been raised with the Indian management before play. "We don't remind players each morning that they can be out lbw or caught or bowled. Players must be responsible for knowing the conditions. In most cases I think you'd find that the manager would be aware of those conditions and nothing would need to be said. We could have gone and told them first thing in the morning but personally I didn't want to put a negative thought in their minds that if two quick wickets fell Sachin couldn't bat."

Harper said the South Africans had not appealed for "timed out" - a form of dismissal which has never happened in Test cricket and only four times in first-class games. "I had explained to them that there were exceptional circumstances and they were quite happy with that," he said.

Ganguly said that fourth umpire Murray Brown had arrived at the dressing room with Harper's reminder as the second wicket fell. VVS Laxman, who was due to bat after Tendulkar, was in the shower and Ganguly had to pad up in a hurry. "I had to get ready. I was in my tracksuit," he said.

No batsman has been Timed-Out in international cricket but four have suffered the fate in first class games - Andrew Jordaan (Eastern Province v Transvaal at Port Elizabeth in 1987-88), Hemulal Yadav (Tripura v Orissa at Cuttack in 1997), Vasbert Drakes (Border v Free State at East London in 2002) and AJ Harris (Nottinghamshire v Durham UCCE at Nottingham in 2003).

Law 31 (Timed out)

(a) Unless Time has been called, the incoming batsman must be in position to take guard or for his partner to be ready to receive the next ball within 3 minutes of the fall of the previous wicket. If this requirement is not met, the incoming batsman will be out, Timed out.

(b) In the event of protracted delay in which no batsman comes to the wicket, the umpires shall adopt the procedure of Law 21.3 (Umpires awarding a match). For the purposes of that Law the start of the action shall be taken as the expiry of the 3 minutes referred to above.

2. Bowler does not get credit

The bowler does not get credit for the wicket.

Click here for list of batsmen who have been Timed Out.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo