‘Tazzie’: different world for Proteas

Hashim Amla (Getty Images)
Hashim Amla (Getty Images)

Cape Town – Cerebral commentator and former Australia all-rounder Tom Moody said it would be like transferring the series to another country.

Certainly conditions seem set to change quite radically when South Africa attempt to seal the three-Test series against the Baggy Greens early by winning the second encounter at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval from Saturday.

From the sun-baked WACA in Western Australia, with its hard, pace-friendly pitch, the Proteas are about to do battle at Test level for the first time in the much more southern, often considerably chillier and damp island state of Tasmania, situated close to the famous Roaring Forties of nautical parlance.

Moody told SuperSport viewers towards the end of the Perth clash, which SA won by 177 runs, that the players might well encounter for the second Test the sort of “two jerseys” and numb-fingers weather common in spring conditions in England.

The pitch at the Bellerive will almost certainly be slower than the WACA, yet be conducive to seam and swing bowling, especially if skies are overcast.

Already the prospect of uninterrupted play on days one and two doesn’t look promising at all, if long-range weather forecasts are to be believed, with both tipped to be rain-lashed and bracing.

I have previously visited Tasmania twice, the first at almost exactly this time of the year, and vividly remember – even though it was the mid-1990s – experiencing a spectacular “two seasons in two days” shift in the fickle weather.

On the near-balmy first, I was sailing and sometimes even jumping into crystal-clear waters in idyllic bays off the south-east coast of the island with friends; by the second we had transferred to Cradle Mountain in the interior and noticed a distinct cold snap as we went to bed in a holiday cottage.

We awoke the next morning to a substantial coating of snow on the ground, and had to run to the car in our shorts, T-shirts and slipslops to grab warm yachting clothing as a highly necessary antidote to the biting cold.

That’s Tazzie for you, with maximum temperatures capable of plunging – or sometimes rising -- by well over 20 degrees in the space of 24 hours.

The Proteas will probably be finding Hobart an attractive small city -- as so many set on water and with a mountain backdrop (pretty formidable Mount Wellington) are -- though to many of them it may simply seem like a cooler version of, say, Plettenberg Bay or Port Alfred.

Tasmania makes some crisp white wines – though production of reds is on the rise – and the range and quality of seafood in restaurants is excellent.

The Bellerive Oval (otherwise referred to as Blundstone Arena these days) in Hobart, where the Test is to be played, has been a happy hunting ground for Australia in the format, with teams from the Subcontinent, no doubt hardly partial to the colder weather, particularly prone to playing second fiddle.

The Baggy Greens have won nine of the 12 Test matches ever staged there since 1989, with two draws and a solitary reverse to New Zealand (the Black Caps would find it a bit of a home away from home, conditions-wise) by just seven runs in December 2011.

It is virgin territory to the Proteas in five-day terms, although they have played five one-day internationals there between 1993 and 2009, winning two (both against New Zealand) and losing three (the Aussies in a lone bilateral clash there, plus Sri Lanka and NZ).

Hashim Amla and JP Duminy, of the current Test squad, are the only two with prior international experience of the venue, having played in the five-run defeat to the Aussies in 2009.

Like many English grounds, the Bellerive can be suitably batting-friendly when the players have the sun on their backs – Australia notched 583 for four declared after taking first strike against West Indies in the last Test in December last year – but fast men come into their own when it is more gloomy and spinners can also revel as Tests progress.

Rangana Herath, the Sri Lankan left-arm spinner, picked up a five-for in the Aussie second innings of the second-last Hobart Test.

South African cricket fans with a love of quirky statistical events might well remember Tasmanian-hosted cricket primarily for the major reason I do, even if it occurred in the northern town on the island of Devonport, rather than Hobart.

That was where, on the South African tour of 1997/98, pace bowling great Allan Donald – generally one of those lovable “bunnies” of world cricket with the bat -- registered his one and only career first-class half century, of 370 innings, against David Boon’s Tasmanian side in a drawn four-day meeting.

Donald, stationed unusually “high” for him at No 9 – ahead of Paul Adams and Makhaya Ntini – scored 55 not out off 112 balls, and helped his captain Hansie Cronje (165) post 146 runs for the eighth wicket.

He may regret that his massive personal landmark came in a relative backwater.

But again, perhaps that’s Tazzie for you …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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