Is it any consolation that England have not beaten South Africa at Newlands since 1957?
No, I didn’t think so either.
The Proteas have flourished against England at Newlands, although the last time they were there in 2010, the match was drawn. But apart from that, it has been sorry reading for the visitors: beaten by 10 wickets in 1996; an innings and 37 in 2000, 196 in 2005.
But that was then, and England come to Newlands with a spring in their step, great batting depth and a formidable attack which will enjoy the conditions at Newlands as much as what’s left of the Proteas attack.
Australia are the only side to have beaten the Proteas there, and they have done so four times.
Out of 28 matches since readmission, the Proteas have won 19, and drawn five.
It’s worth noting a that on the six occasions that the side choosing to field first, three times it ended in a draw, although SA have had some success unleashing the bowlers first, notably against Pakistan (2007 and 2013).
Factoring out Sri Lanka’s 95 (2001), Zimbabwe’s 54 (2005) and New Zealand’s 45 (2013), the average first innings score is 364; but to show you how true the surface is, the average reply is 346 (ignoring SA’s 96 in that crazy game against Australia in 2011). So if you bat first, you have to make it count.
Newlands curator Evan Flint says he is planning a five-day surface, but that a spinner is essential, even though the majority of wickets have gone to seamers.
Dale Steyn leads the list of leading wicket-takers, dismissing 65 batsmen in 13 Tests at an average of 21.93, while Vernon Philander has accounted for 31, including 5-17 on debut against Australia when the visitors collapsed to 49 all out.
The bad news is that neither of those are on the field in this match
AB de Villiers (1,029 runs, average of 44.73) and Hashim Amla (1,007, 43.78) are third and fourth on the list of the most productive batsmen to have played at Newlands. This is the time for them to step up.
Forecast: Saturday: Full sun with a high of 30 deg C; Sunday: Full sun with a high of 31; Monday: Cloudy with a high of 32.