Cape Town - South Africa’s earliest Test matches ever in a home season, against New Zealand in August, should be played in more natural, orthodox conditions than occurred when the Black Caps arrived for limited-overs activity over the same period last year.
On that occasion, the outfield at SuperSport Park in Centurion was dubiously “spray-painted” green to nullify the customary, straw-like winter look at the venue which experiences negligible winter rainfall.
The home of the Titans stages the second and final Test of the fast-approaching mini-series from August 27; the first is at Kingsmead from August 19.
But Cricket South Africa is busy with an enhancement drive at major international venues, and it appears a successful way has been found to make the Centurion venue, particularly, have a summer look for the Kiwi Test - without the need to resort to overly artificial methods.
“We have resurfaced at Centurion and it looks amazing today, unrecognisable from last season’s (late winter) experience, and the improvement is all natural,” CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat told Sport24.
“There is technology available these days, and sophisticated equipment being used; it has been taken down to Durban as well now. The process is over-seeding, which basically involves pulling out the summer grass and replacing it with winter grass.
“In just some eight days at Centurion, it went from the customary winter Highveld brown to a healthy green.
“Let’s see what the August cricket brings us this time around: Jacques Faul (the Titans CEO) was telling us that the outfield actually looks better than in full summer conditions.
“Last year for the one-dayers, the New Zealanders were quite thrilled with many aspects of the conditions, including the daytime weather with temperatures getting up to the 24 deg Celsius or so; it was only the fact that we had had to spray the grass that they weren’t keen about.
“We were learning then - you’ll see a big change this time. A few weeks ago at Centurion you could already look out of the windows and not believe the colour of the grass in mid-winter.
“In terms of daytime conditions in August in Durban and the Highveld, there is usually absolutely nothing wrong with the daytime weather - it is only at night that you have a problem.”
Lorgat admitted that getting cricket enthusiasts used to the culture of late-winter international activity, in suitable parts of the country from a climate point of view, was a work in progress.
“People do have to slowly come around to the mind-set of winter Test cricket, get used to the idea, but the big thing is you can open up a two to three-week window at that time and you know in a packed schedule what that means.
“It also means we can have the opportunity for our international players to take part in the domestic T20 competition for 2016/17; free them up to enhance that.”
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