Cape Town – Recent history offers only limited aid to the Proteas as they contemplate, probably in some suspense, what sort of surface may face them in the second Test against India at Bangalore from Saturday.
That is largely because the M Chinnaswamy Stadium has not staged a Test match since September 2012, and much can change in character terms over the course of more than three years.
South Africa may well take with a pinch of salt, too, the knowledge that the venue traditionally tends to offer superior pace and bounce – it’s all relative, you might argue – to several other Indian Test tracks.
Bearing in mind what happened to the world’s No 1-ranked side in the first Test of the series, a 108-run loss on a much-debated “dustbowl” at Mohali, Hashim Amla’s men will be expecting a pitch as close as possible in character to that one and with relatively few delights in store for fast bowlers ... at least not until it may turn abrasive at advanced stages.
Still, they could take heart from the fact that historically the Chinnaswamy has not been overly kind to the host nation in the five-day format: India’s record, since Tests began there in 1974, is a 50 percent one – six wins, six defeats and eight draws from the 20 contests.
Among the losses is a nasty one by an innings and 71 runs on the only prior occasion South Africa have graced a Test there: a famous 2-0 mini-series clincher under Hansie Cronje’s leadership in 2000.
The match will be remembered for left-arm spinner Nicky Boje’s finest hour for his country: not only did he earn match figures of 7/93 but also scored 85 in the lone SA innings after taking guard at No 3 as a nightwatchman.
So a bit of video footage from that triumph, if available, might not be the worst advance material to feed the Proteas’ all-changed class of 2015 as they set their sights on drawing level in the series in Bangalore.
Nevertheless, India could be said to be gradually rectifying their surprisingly iffy record at the Chinnaswamy, as they have not lost in any of their last four Tests there, including victories over Australia in 2010 and New Zealand in the last fixture in 2012.
The triumph over the Aussies was notable for the fact that even after winning the toss, taking grateful first strike and posting a formidable 478 (Marcus North 128, Ricky Ponting 77), the Baggy Greens were still dismantled by seven wickets.
When the Black Caps were seen off by five wickets two years later, at least some comfort for the SA pacemen of the current tour will be the fact that visiting fast-medium bowler Tim Southee registered what still count as his best single-innings figures in a Test match: 7/64.
If you bend your back and are just a little cunning, the place may not necessarily be a playground too overwhelmingly geared for spinners ...
Here are some Test records from the Chinnaswamy Stadium:
Best individual score: 267 by Younis Khan (for Pakistan, 2005)
Most runs: 869 (average 62.07) by India’s Sachin Tendulkar
Best one-innings bowling figures: 7/27 by India’s Maninder Singh (against Pakistan, 1987)
Most wickets: 41 (average 34.53, nine Tests) by India’s Anil Kumble.
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