SA in New Zealand

‘Result’ venue lift for Proteas

2012-03-12 12:00
Graeme Smith (Gallo)

Cape Town – Seddon Park’s recent reputation as a ground seldom favouring stalemates is a fillip for South Africa’s second Test aspirations against New Zealand as they digest the disappointment of a series clean sweep quickly being ruled out.

At least the additional pressure of striving for that difficult challenge is out of the way, following the washout of the tantalising final day’s play in Dunedin at the weekend, and the Proteas can simply refocus on actually winning the series against the gritty Black Caps.

South Africa needed to take the spoils 3-0 to seize No 1 spot from England in the ICC rankings and simultaneously snatch the US$175,000 booty on the cut-off date of April 1.

Presumably without wishing to introduce any element of sour grapes, Proteas captain Graeme Smith arguably made a pertinent point after the drawn encounter at University Oval – his charges still slightly held the aces before the abandonment – when he said: “(New Zealand) brought us to Dunedin for the weather and the weather ended up winning the day.”

As underdogs, the Black Caps are quite likely to be happy to play cling-on cricket and try to exploit any window of opportunity deeper in the series to wrestle the initiative from the South African juggernaut.

So scheduling the first Test deep down on the chilly South Island may well have been part of a cunning but understandable plan to still be well in contention as the sides head much further north – comfortingly for the tourists, who may thus have reason to keep their beanies in their bags – for the Hamilton showdown from Thursday (Wednesday 23:30, SA time).

Another tonic for them is that Seddon Park may, according to local reports, offer just a little more life in the track than the Dunedin one, and the ground also has a modern knack of not encouraging draws.

All of the last five Tests there have produced positive outcomes -- and only two of those have gone the home nation’s way, so it hardly represents a fortress for them.

Ironically the last draw at the ground came on South Africa’s last tour of the country back in 2003/04, when the first Test rather laboriously ended all square.

The Proteas posted 459 in their first innings then (Gary Kirsten 137) but then got a nasty little surprise as New Zealand replied with an even more buxom 509 – Jacob Oram thrashed a century from the No 7 slot and there were also four half-tonners in the Kiwi ranks.

Jacques Kallis led the run-fest in South Africa’s second innings with an unbeaten 150 but then the Test petered out in a significant way.

But a draw trend has been entirely absent since, including Pakistan claiming a 10-wicket victory in the last Test match at the venue in January 2011, when both seamers and spinners appeared to thrive to a good degree in both teams.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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