Sri Lanka in SA

AB lauds backwater venues

2012-01-12 10:02
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Paarl - The success in every respect of South Africa’s first one-day international appearance at Boland Park here in almost a decade means Cricket South Africa are likely to step up anew a quest to take the national team “to the people” at relative backwaters countrywide.

GALLERY: Proteas v Sri Lanka first ODI

The Proteas thrashed Sri Lanka by 258 runs in a compelling display at the packed-to-capacity ground on Wednesday, the only disappointment for the buzzing 11 000 spectators – undeterred, it seemed, by the particularly gruelling heat - probably being that the game barely extended beyond the dusk period.

And new national limited-overs captain AB de Villiers told Sport24 afterwards that, from a purely cricketing point of view, the outing was as beneficial as it was clearly rewarding.

“The unexpectedness of new places helps us. We haven’t played for so long at places like Paarl and East London; so we don’t know quite what to expect.

“You get there and suddenly there’s a bit of bounce or a bit of turn or the ball keeps low ... it forces you to learn to adapt and that’s what the boys did today (Wednesday).

“We adapted well and communicated extremely well, too. We got messages out (to and) from the middle right from the start to the end; knowing what total we were looking at under the conditions and things like that.

“That’s key when you’re touring away from South Africa, particularly to places like Sri Lanka and India where you need to be quick on your feet at various different grounds.”

De Villiers also praised the “great vibe, wonderful atmosphere” at the spectator-friendly ground which, a little like SuperSport Park at Centurion, boasts generous grass banks.

“We weren’t expecting the sell-out so it’s great to see people coming here.

“Seeing the support in the smaller cities around the country makes things a lot easier, reminding you when you do eventually go away from South Africa that the people are really behind you. You get an appreciation of that when you play at places like this.”

Given the obvious, especially strong support-base for the Proteas in gate terms in the Western Cape generally, CSA may well be keen now to expose the national side to Boland Park, home of the smaller partner in the Cape Cobras franchise, rather more often than is presently the case.

They may even come to consider it a Test option for when South Africa occasionally play slightly more “second-tier” nations outside of the peak Festive Season period, although certain of the public and media facilities would need further sprucing up.

The press-box on Wednesday, for instance, was a temporary, scaffolding structure with obscured views from anywhere but the front row.

But the venue has the advantage of being a relatively easy, 45-minute commute from Cape Town up the N1, so it has the capability to draw significant numbers of Newlands regulars, a little like there is a “Wanderers crossover” from Johannesburg when big games are played at Centurion.

Obviously, too, the mid- to late-summer weather in Paarl is also infinitely more reliable than at some established major grounds further to the north or east of the country.

The Proteas now move on to another less fashionable venue, Buffalo Park in East London, for Saturday’s daytime second ODI.

They do turn out there rather more often – having featured in 17 of 21 ODIs scheduled at the ground since the return from isolation - but their last completed game was against Zimbabwe in September 2006, when the Jacques Kallis-led side beat Zimbabwe by six wickets.

A later match against Bangladesh, in November 2008, was abandoned without a ball being bowled.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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