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
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