Cape Town – There must be few better “old Kingsmead hands”
than Shaun Pollock.
Now 43 and comfortably rehoused in his role as a television
commentator, the former Proteas captain and luminary all-rounder spent his
entire domestic first-class career – from 1991/92 to 2007/08 -- with the venue
as his home franchise/provincial ground.
He also played 12 of his 108 Test matches there and, almost
needless to say, the firm Durban local will be keenly at his SuperSport post
for the first of South Africa’s two clashes with New Zealand from Friday.
Naturally revelling at times in Kingsmead’s (now fading)
reputation for boasting a “green mamba” of a pitch when conditions were
favourable, the canny, probing, disciplined and initially pretty hostile seamer
sported 44 scalps from those dozen Tests at his home base – at an average of
21.79, even eclipsing his stellar overall average in the format of 23.11.
But the popular “Polly” expects relatively few ready-made
favours for quicker men over the course of the first Test, an historic one as
it will be the earliest-staged clash of a home season in the pedigreed format.
“I suppose you can’t be certain about too much for an August
game at Kingsmead,” Pollock told Sport24 this week.
“I can’t remember ever playing a proper match on the ground
before September, and even then our warm-up games for the season ahead were
played on side strips which have different grass – we didn’t get onto the main
part of the square.
“My expectation would be that the Test strip is pretty
devoid of moisture, even if they have perhaps flooded it a bit in the lead-up.
“If that is the case, there shouldn’t be a huge amount of
assistance; you could have to graft quite patiently for wickets.
“But what you do tend to find at Kingsmead is that at the
start and then the end of seasons there is some help for spinners, when there
is not too much live grass.
“If it is a little cold in the morning sessions there could
be something (for the seamers), although that said, for a few days recently we
had quite a lot of slap-on-the-sunscreen weather.”
August is hardly peak-humidity time on the KwaZulu-Natal
coast, although long-range forecasts suggest that Saturday (86 percent) and
Sunday (almost 70 percent) may present the sort of mugginess that traditionally
gives swing bowlers hope.
If the surface is reasonably tricky to read in advance of
the Test, Pollock expects fewer surprises in the Proteas line-up: “I think
they’ll go six batsmen, plus (wicketkeeper Quinton) de Kock at seven, and then
three seamers and (off-spinner) Dane Piedt.
“I doubt they will go all-seam with four … maybe if JP
(Duminy) was feeling good about his own ‘offies’ supplementing his batting it’s
something they might have considered, but that is not really the case with him
at the moment.”
*Perhaps a bigger concern than the strip will be the
Kingsmead outfield. Special new grass was laid there a couple of months ago to
cater for the unusual, late-winter conditions, although flooding in the region
late last month reportedly washed away some of it, leaving sections of the
outfield bare and potentially even muddy if there is further rain.
Some weather websites predict risks of occasional rain on a
couple of days of the Test, though not in especially significant amounts.