• Play to SA’s strength

    December 23, 2014

    These West Indians aren’t equipped to stand toe-to-toe with the Proteas in the heat of battle for five days.

    And they shouldn’t be given a lifeline by the groundsmen in the two remaining Tests, in Port Elizabeth and Newlands.

    The Proteas bowlers rediscovered their mojo at Centurion, blowing away the Windies inside four days. The tourists won the toss, put South Africa in to bat, but lost by an innings. Like they should have, given the gulf in class between the two sides.

    South Africa are ranked No1 in the world, playing at home, and have the best pace attack in the world, spearheaded by a man closing in on 400 Test wickets. Dale Steyn was superb in Centurion, and Vernon Philander will be more confident after being given a surface to exploit.

    When one goes back nearly a year to last summer when Australia came to South Africa, I felt the Proteas were let down by the surfaces the host groundsmen dished out. Sure, Mitchell Johnson was on fire, but one bowler can’t match three when Steyn, Philander and Morne Morkel are given fast, bouncy tracks.

    Although South Africa levelled the series in Port Elizabeth – largely thanks to an inspired spell of reverse swing by Steyn – Newlands was rolled flat like a pancake, handing the advantage back to Australia, who duly won. And Proteas captain Graeme Smith retired mid-match, which caught most by surprise.

    With a ruthless Proteas 1-0 up heading into the second Test, I wouldn’t expect Port Elizabeth or Cape Town to see a fifth day, weather permitting. The West Indies simply aren’t good enough to fight fire with fire. Shivnarine Chanderpaul might be 40 years of age but he is the only player capable of digging in for sessions on end, withstanding the storm. Other than him, and with no Chris Gayle at the top of the order, one would expect the Proteas bowlers to continue where they left off in Centurion.

    Do you think that when the Windies had the most fearsome fast bowling quartet in the history of the game, the groundsmen gave them slow turners to bowl on and help the opposition batsmen combat the pace? Of course not. Home ground advantage should be just that.

    However, we now get to the darker part of the game, that not bathed in sunshine out in the middle. Will the groundsmen, particularly when it comes to Newlands, be ‘encouraged’ to produce a pitch that will guarantee five days of cricket. In other words, offer a bit of green tinge on the surface but once it dries in the sun it becomes a batsman’s paradise.

    We know how important television revenue is to local unions and the host nation and five days of cricket ensures much more money pours into the coffers than three or four days.

    Yet, the cricketers themselves deserve the platform on which to perform and be ruthless. This is the number one Test side in world cricket taking on an average West Indies team that has toured terribly since 2000. It’s worth noting that in 46 away Tests over the last 14 years against opposition that doesn’t include Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, they have lost 45 of them. The sole victory came in South Africa.

    They mustn’t be allowed back into the series and we should see a shut-out in Port Elizabeth and a rout in Cape Town. The public won’t mind not seeing five days, but the administrators might as it would affect their profits.

    However, with Steyn set to overtake Makhaya Ntini’s number of Test wickets in Port Elizabeth, he should be allowed to reach the magical 400-wicket milestone at his home ground of Newlands. Let’s see what the groundsmen come up with.



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