Australia in SA

Centurion pitch under fire

2014-02-15 19:01
Mitchell Johnson (Gallo Images)

Centurion - While readily acknowledging his team was “beaten comprehensively”, Proteas captain Graeme Smith was clearly irked by the inconsistent bounce offered by the SuperSport Park pitch as his charges were thrashed by Australia in the first Test here on Saturday.

AS IT HAPPENED: SA v Australia - Day 4

In short, Smith felt that the supposedly “home” surface played into the hands of Mitchell Johnson, the Aussies’ lightning-fast, bounce-generating left-arm spearhead who earned career-best match figures of 12 for 127.

South Africa are more than happy to play on pace-friendly pitches but they prefer them to be much truer in bounce and potentially offering a bit seam movement to aid the likes of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

This one was overwhelmingly characterised by the unevenness of the bounce, which made batting a bit of a lottery at times – those signs started as early as day one.

“I think the conditions certainly suited (Johnson’s) style of bowling,” Smith said at the post-match press conference.

“He was able to extract every bit of life and uncertainty out of that wicket, which in turn put us under an immense amount of pressure.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen this pitch play like it did in this game ... I truly believe the wicket played a big role in the success that he had.”

If anyone was going to suggest Smith was looking for excuses, then the subsequent words of rival captain Michael Clarke – already in the room for part of Smith’s session at the table – would have gone some way to burying the suspicion.

“(It was) a tough batting wicket ... quite a nasty wicket, to be honest,” Clarke said.

“I’d have hated to see any team have to bat on that on day five; it went up and down.”

Explaining his decision to declare the Aussie second innings so soon after the start of play on Saturday, the Baggy Greens skipper said: “I saw enough in that wicket after two and a half overs to think it was going to be quite dangerous to bat on.”

It is not the first time Smith had criticised home surfaces for Test matches.

After South Africa beat Pakistan in the second Test at Newlands last season to clinch the three-Test series early – though the tourists had some very threatening moments – he had said: “Conditions suited Pakistan a lot more ... they looked at home in them. It was like the Subcontinent.

“But we have to play on what we are given.”

The Proteas had better make sure the team and local ground-staff are singing from much nearer the same song-sheet for the second Test at St George’s Park ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  ozinsa  |  cricket
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