Cape Town – South Africa, unless lightning strikes twice, ought to find the Newlands surface on Wednesday more suited to their seam-bowling strengths for the decisive third Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka.
The Proteas were caught rather off-guard at the Wanderers on Sunday, where the tourists revelled in the presence of an unexpected, significantly gripping “turner” to level matters at 1-1 in the series.
In a low-scoring affair, the ‘Lankans roared back into the picture primarily courtesy of the T20 debut heroics of their left-arm chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan, who promptly grabbed match figures of 4/23 and must have come desperately close to the player of the match mantle eventually bagged by his hobbling-at-the-crease captain Angelo Mathews.
Greater domestic indignation than was necessary over the Bullring strip accompanied the slightly upset reverse by the host nation, guilty of rank bad shot selection in many cases, as well as an absurdly sub-standard appreciation of pacing requirements to a T20 innings.
Inevitably, though, the spotlight will fall more heavily than it might have for Wednesday’s decider on Newlands curator Evan Flint, who will be under pressure not to produce anything remotely like a carbon copy of the Johannesburg surface.
The fact that it will be an evening/night affair (18:00 start) probably only increases the likelihood, if anything, that pace will come right back into the picture as key bowling factor; Newlands is similar to most coastal venues in the country for keeping any nip-it-off-the-seam bowlers interested under lights.
Still-uncapped Dane Paterson of the Cobras is the only fast bowler in the current SA squad yet to get a run in this series, and probably has a good chance of making an apt debut at his home ground, even if fitting him in isn’t straightforward.
He offers less with the bat than, say, Wayne Parnell or Andile Phehlukwayo, and the Proteas may be required to rest the reasonably smooth-firing left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso if they are hell-bent on trying out Paterson in a tweak to the attack.
Certainly there is little special, recent evidence from limited-overs cricket at Newlands to suggest that it will be a paradise for slow bowlers in this match.
The ball came onto the bat very agreeably in the October one-day international against Australia, where the Proteas won, by 31 runs, to secure a 5-0 series sweep.
South Africa rattled up 327 for eight in the day/nighter, with now-departed Rilee Rossouw blitzing his way to 122 and JP Duminy weighing in with 73.
Australia then made a gallant quest of the chase, getting to 296 all out albeit that their innings was lopsidedly dominated by David Warner, dismissed in the 48th over for a belligerent 173.
The last time a T20 international was staged at the venue, the same Aussies beat the Proteas by six wickets with four balls to spare in the decisive third and final fixture for a 2-1 series triumph in March last season, just before the teams left for the last ICC World Twenty20 tournament in India.
That was a much more high-scoring contest than witnessed at the Wanderers on Sunday, with just under 180 the target set for the tourists on that occasion.
If the current Proteas squad are to avoid any complacency infiltrating their ranks on Wednesday, it may be worth someone reminding them that South Africa have lost four of their seven T20 internationals at Newlands, including four of the last five.*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing