Pitches will determine SA vs Australia test series

2014-01-19 14:00

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If there is something that the Proteas will not get ahead of during the Australian test series, it will be doctored pitches.

Both teams will be carrying fast bowling arsenals that can blow batsmen back to the stone age.

England’s rather proud batting was one of those and fast pitches, especially in Brisbane and Perth, had a lot to do with their batting meltdown during the Ashes.

The last time South Africa played against Australia at Newlands, in 2011, history was nearly made when the Aussies sunk to 21/9 before “recovering” to 47 all out.

The ground also witnessed New Zealand’s 49 all out, occurrences groundsman

Evan Flint hopes do not resurface.

“I hope that never happens to me again but when the Aussies were bundled out for 47, that was a freak game because South Africa then chased down 230 very easily. I’m still not sure as to what happened that day,” said Flint.

“New Zealand were victims of conditions that suited our attack and their own batting ineptitude, but that is not how we prepare pitches.

“All we want is an even contest over five days.”

SuperSport Park groundsman Rudolph du Preez has not witnessed a Proteas test defeat in his seven years at the ground, something he says puts pressure on them in preparing a good pitch.

“We’ve always aimed for a fair contest between bat and ball, and nothing else. We would not like to get into a situation where the team that wins the toss wins the match,” said Du Preez.

While SuperSport Park has tended to assist fast bowlers, as its list of top wicket takers suggests, the Titans franchise has used spinners to advance its cause recently.

Preparations for the February?12 test at SuperSport Park are already under way and, according to Du Preez, it was down to experimentation.

The groundsman rules out consultation with team management ahead of matches.

“We have been playing around with preparation after we received communication from Cricket SA in terms of breeding new spin bowling talent. The pitches have not slowed down but it’s more of a case of getting the ball to turn on day one.”

St George’s Park groundsman Adi Carter has the onerous task of manning one of the moodiest surfaces in the country.

Its reputed slowness is up for debate, according to Carter, who said each pitch will always have its own characteristics and none will emulate the WACA Ground in Perth.

“We have relaid every pitch on our square over the last 10 years, but spinners also take wickets on bouncy tracks because they also look for the bounce,” said Carter.

“If it is slow, then it is slow and everyone has their own opinion about the pace of the pitch.

“If it is consistent, then I am happy because each track will have its own characteristics.”

Pitches with different life cycles

SA’s test records at the three grounds

SuperSport Park, Centurion

February 12-16

P: 18, W: 14, D: 3, L: 1

Last result vs Australia: won by eight wickets, 1996/97

St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth

February 20-24

P: 24, W: 9, D: 4, L: 11

Last result vs Australia: lost

by two wickets, 1996/97

Newlands, Cape Town

March 1-5

P: 50, W: 21, D: 10, L: 19

Last result vs Australia: won by eight wickets, 2011/12

Pitch characteristics

The types of clay, density of soil and atmospheric conditions play a large part in how a pitch plays out.

The harder the clay and soil texture, the quicker the pitch will be (ball arrives quickly to the batsman).

It will also deteriorate less, but will open up more. Coastal pitches have different clay and soil conditions because of atmospheric conditions and, therefore, tend to have lower clay content and softer soil.

That leads to lower, slower pitches that are prone to quick deterioration when exposed to maximum sunshine (less bounce, less pace).

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