South Africa are looking to the elements and the groundsman at St George’s Park to get their Test series off to a good start against Sri Lanka on Boxing Day.
‘We’ve played on some wickets in Durban that have spun square against subcontinent sides and we’re thinking, ”that’s not what we are looking for”,’ said coach Russell Domingo as the Proteas began their preparation.
This time around, in Port Elizabeth, where the wicket traditionally is slow, the groundsman is planning to keep a generous covering of grass on the pitch.
‘We feel that the wicket suits us to a degree,’ said the coach. ‘The ball tends to reverse swing here because of the abrasive wicket which helps our seamers. If there is a little bit of an easterly wind or overhead conditions, we are able to exploit those conditions as well.
‘It’s never historically been a fast wicket, it’s a wicket where you have to be patient and you have to grind out runs. That’s the strength of this particular side, our levels of patience and being able to withstand those types of periods.’
Groundsman Adrian Carter has been doing what he can to keep moisture in but he can’t control the drying wind, which is set to breeze in at speeds of 80 km/h on Saturday. The westerly tends to make the surface flatter and Carter hopes that will be offset by Monday’s easterly, which aids swing.
Keeping the grass on, says Domingo, helps provide an extra bit of pace and bounce but he is also expecting some turn, although Carter explained it won’t be emphatic: ‘We don’t get that sharp, fizzing turn here, it’s more likely to be slow turn. There will be something with the new ball, it will go around a bit but if it gets to day four and five, the spinners will come into it.’
Domingo is keen for the Proteas to maintain their momentum after a winning series against Australia
He says the series will be an opportunity to continue with the revamped brand of cricket under the leadership of Faf du Plessis, and for players to build some consistency in their performances. The Proteas are unbeaten in their last three Test matches at St George’s Park, a successful trend helped by the deep understanding of the local conditions.
‘It’s a big series for us,’ Domingo said. ‘We have been playing some good Test match cricket of late and to continue that form and the brand of cricket that we want to play is of paramount importance for us.’
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