SA’s field of broken dreams

2011-12-20 00:00

ALTHOUGH South Africa got their summer series against Sri Lanka off to a good start, with a comprehensive innings and 81-run victory in Pretoria, statistics show that the home side should be wary of the Boxing Day Test.

The action now moves to Kingsmead, a ground which has proved troublesome for the Proteas over the past three years.

Since the end of 2008 the home side have lost to Australia, England and India at the ground. The last time the Proteas won a Test at Kingsmead was in 2008 when they beat the West Indies by an innings and 100 runs.

South African bowlers have not been clinical at the ground, while opposition bowlers have had a good run.

Perhaps the biggest factor that has worked in their favour at the ground was the inclusion of quality slower bowlers.

In the 2009 Australian Test the visitors scored 352 and 331 in their batting efforts while South Africa scored 138 and 370.

Top wicket takers for the visitors were medium pacer Andrew McDonald, who took 3/25 in the first innings, and part-time spinner Simon Katich, who took 3/45 in the second innings.

Against England in 2009 South Africa scored 343 and 133, while England only batted once, scoring 575.

Graeme Swann was the best English bowler, taking 4/110 in the first innings and 5/54 in the second innings.

Finally against India in 2010, India scored 205 and 228, while the home side scored 131 and 215. Harbhajan Singh took 4/10 in the first innings and 2/70 in the second innings.

South Africa’s woes at the venue could change this year. In Imran Tahir the Proteas have found a spin bowler who is adjusting well to Test cricket and has performed well in the SuperSport Series in the past.

In the 2007/08 season, when he still played for the Titans, Tahir took 26 wickets in the competition. In 2008/09 he took 32 wickets and in the 2010/11 season, his first with the Dolphins, he took 42 wickets.

South Africa will need to be careful. Injuries sidelined the majority of Sri Lanka’s young pace bowling attack before they arrived in South Africa, and it seems spin and medium pace bowling is what the Sri Lankan bowling attack is relying on.

They can call on the services of Ajantha Mendis to back up spin bowlers Tillakaratne Dilshan, Rangana Herath and Thilan Samaraweera, and if the pitch plays as it has in the past, Angelo Mathews could play an important role in Sri Lanka’s attack.

The fact that the slow bowlers perform well at Kingsmead does not mean that they completely dominate proceedings. Mitchell Johnson took 3/37 in the first innings at Kingsmead in 2009. James Anderson and Stuart Broad took two wickets each in England’s only bowling effort, while Swann was taking wickets at the other end and Zaheer Khan chipped in with a useful 3/36 in the first innings.

In the three Tests that South Africa lost at the venue, the side batting first went on to win twice.

Depending on the weather, this might tempt Graeme Smith to bat first come Boxing Day.

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