Waca’s pitch of old revived to bring back pace and bounce

2008-12-02 00:00

The South African cricketers are heading Down Under and it is going to be an exciting tour with the first Test match in Perth just weeks away.

The Waca – Western Australia’s home ground — is renowned for producing some of the fastest and bounciest pitches in world cricket. In recent years, however, we have seen flatter Waca pitches producing far more runs than we have come to expect.

Apparently, the idea is to bring back the Waca pitch of old for the series against the South Africans. The strips at the Perth ground have been re-laid and should now produce a similar type of surface to those which assisted Dennis Lillee, the legendary Australian fast bowler.

Even though the Waca is know for its quick pitches, batsman can still get value for their shots provided they are able to fend off the short deliveries. If the Waca ground staff prepare a quick, bouncy pitch, it will be good news for South Africa and their quicks — Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Makhaya Ntini.

Captain Graham Smith is confident that his team is settled and feels that Morkel’s return to form with the ball is the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place. Morkel was called on regularly by Smith in the series against Bangladesh and, to his credit, seemed to get better the more he bowled. He was out in the middle working hard with bowling coach Vinnie Barnes each morning of the Test match in Bloemfontein and certainly had no shortage of advice and tips to help him along. The fact that past players, commentators and coaches are coming forward to help him shows how important they feel he is to the Protea bowling line-up. One hopes that he will be able to sift through all the well-meaning council and take on board only what he feels is valuable.

South Africa will be doing all they can to prevent any injuries to their fast bowlers. Should Steyn, Morkel or Ntini pull up during the series they will be faced with the choice of either Mondi Zondeki or Lonwabo Tsotsobe as replacements. Zondeki has shown disappointing form of late and Tstotohe has no experience playing at international level.

The spinner’s role for South Africa will also be pivotal. Paul Harris’s job description will be to protect the fast bowlers by bowling long spells and he will also be required to dominate on day four and five of the Test matches.

Whether Harris is the right man for the job remains to be seen, but he has the full support of his captain. Smith feels that Harris, who stands at almost two metres, will be able to use his height to his advantage by gaining bounce on the Australian pitches, and he is confident that his spinner has the ability to keep things tight.

We know that the Australians are going to target Harris and attempt to take him out of the attack, so he will need to hold his nerve to do his job properly and save Smith from having to over-bowl his fast bowlers. This sideshow is going to be one of the many exciting contests in the series.

There is a feeling among the media that this could be Jacques Kallis’s tour and that an Australian series is just the challenge he needs to help him into top form again.

The series against Australia, first away and then at home, could make for a memorable, competitive summer — and South Africans will be hoping that Smith’s optimism is well founded.

• Neil Johnson is a former Natal, Westerm Province and Zimbawe all-rounder now living and coaching cricket in Pietermaritzburg.

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