'It won’t be a 96 and 47 pitch'
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Neil McKenzie, who knows the
Wanderers better than most people, expects a rather less helter-skelter Test
match between South Africa and Australia at the venue from Thursday.
The Highveld Lions and former Proteas
batsman, still going strong in domestic cricket on the brink of his 36th
birthday, expects a “decent contest between bat and ball” in the second and
last Test, after the dramatic, wicket-tumbling events at Newlands in the first.
“It should be that way if the recent hot
sunshine on the Highveld continues,” McKenzie told Sport24 on Tuesday. “If the
weather stays good then you should see a more ‘settled’ game than Cape Town’s
... anything’s more settled than 96 and 47 all out, of course.
“If there’s enough dryness there could be
some turn for the spinners from day three when the strip gets a little abrasive,
but under normal circumstances the idea will probably be to try to win the
toss, bat first and make a big total.
“The Wanderers still has enough in it these
days for the nicks to always carry, even if for pure pace it’s not like it was
some 15 years ago.”
Asked about South Africa’s successful
decision, in the last Test at the venue when they crushed England by an innings
to share the series two seasons ago, to go in with an all-seam attack – Dale
Steyn, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Ryan McLaren plus some aid from Jacques
Kallis – McKenzie said circumstances were different.
“When you are 1-0 down and going for broke
then, maybe, you put your faith in an all-pace approach at Wanderers,
especially if you fancy it is going to be a green and sporty surface throughout
– I’d be surprised if that is the case (this week).”
McKenzie, who scored 170 at the Wanderers
for the Lions against the Warriors in a SuperSport Series match only last month
and has played first-class cricket at the ground since the mid-1990s, also
doesn’t believe the Proteas will fall into a potentially risky ‘draw mindset’,
knowing that that outcome would be enough to close out the series.
“I don’t think they’ll do that. Most of our
Test team have been together as a unit for many years, not months, and are
smart enough to know it’s all about just staying patient and absorbing pressure
when it does come at you.”
The Wanderers hardly has a modern culture
of favouring draws anyway: you have to go some 16 Tests back, to 1996/97, for
the last instance of a game not significantly influenced by weather disruption
ending that way (SA v India, third and final Test, when the hosts won the
The last stalemate was 11 Tests back, when
the South Africa v New Zealand contest in 2000/01 saw no play at all on days
one, three and four.
McKenzie played the last of his 58 Tests
against the Aussies at Kingsmead in March 2009, but continues to enjoy
franchise and county cricket and reckons that “while the body is holding up
fine I have another two years at least in me”.
His most recent county obligations have
been with Hampshire, and he says there are “a few things to iron out” but his
plan for the next English summer is to have a slightly curtailed, three-month
period there as he has family obligations to consider these days.