Matthews: Don’t blame curator

2011-11-10 17:50

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - Newlands pitch curator Evan Flint cannot be held culpable for creating any sort of “monster” in his surface for the first Test match between South Africa and Australia here, says former Proteas seam bowling specialist Craig Matthews.

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Matthews was reacting to the clatter-of-wickets carnage at the famous venue on day two of the Test on Thursday, which saw the South Africans rolled for 96 in reply to the Aussie first knock of 284, and then even greater drama as the tourists followed up with 47 all out in just 18 jaw-dropping overs.

All kinds of records, mostly of the ignominious kind, were either broken or threatened, and there were murmurs among cricket pundits and bloggers across the world that the pitch would be reported to the International Cricket Council.

But TV commentator Matthews, an expert on local conditions after a first-class career comprising service only for Western Province and South Africa, told Sport24: “I feel sorry for the groundsman because of course questions will be asked.

“Yet people are not being peppered (on the body) and the bounce is not a special problem (from a consistency point of view).

“You have to consider other factors like the pure ‘perfect storm’ scenario - both sides have very good bowlers, after all.

“What you saw also today was the bowlers on both sides really working out what the right length was.

“Perhaps it was simply one of those funny days in cricket. I think the difference between days one and two was that the pitch has just hardened up a bit and got a bit quicker - where you played and missed on the first day, you nicked it the next.”

Matthews, who played 18 Tests and 56 ODIs for South Africa and is also a former national selector, conceded that the avalanche of wickets probably caused a simultaneous “mental spiral” among the batsmen.

“That does happen; people start looking for demons in the wicket as a result and we saw some (loose) strokes.

“Sometimes you play on a pitch that is really green and goes incredibly sideways ... I don’t think this is one of those; it’s one that’s just done enough for you to nick it, just moved off the straight and narrow.”

He agreed that it was a strip tailor-made for Vernon Philander, the Cape Cobras debutant, to excel on - the bustling fast-medium bowler claimed figures of five for 15 in the disastrous Aussie second innings.

“He must think Test cricket is (easy) ... he’ll play on a lot flatter wickets than this. But that said, you’ve still got to get the ball in the right areas and he certainly found a beautiful length.”


  • Skinfaxi - 2011-11-10 18:05

    I think the average run rate throught the test has been in the region of 3.6 which really doesn't point to an uneven pitch.

      CapeChappy - 2011-11-10 22:13

      Agreed, plus if the pitch was to blame, it should be getting worse, whereas SA showed this afternoon that you can actually still bat on it. It would be embarrassingto lose after bowling Aus out for 47, so I hope the boys keep their heads and play some good cricket. On another note, I'm glad I never bought tickets for the weekend....

      Gunner - 2011-11-11 07:16

      Dont blame the curator, blame the corrupt players

  • david.sportsman - 2011-11-10 18:13

    Biff is showing all his many critics that he definitely still belongs there...!!

      David - 2011-11-10 18:57

      I'm not his biggest fan but he has done well so far. Even if he goes out cheaply tomorrow, he has steadied the ship and provided a good platform

      Grant - 2011-11-10 19:19

      Unfortunately, his critics are blind, and he therefore wont be proving anything. At most, Smith has experienced a bit of a dip in form here and does every other batsman on the planet. He's been around a long time now, and opens the batting with a 50 average over his career. Anybody who does not give him credit is quite simply a fool!

  • willie.uys - 2011-11-10 18:14

    At 81 for 1 it doesn't look so bad. I thing Craig is correct. The batsmen see a few wickets fall and then start looking for all sort of devils in the pitch instead of just playing their shots - Note the last wicket of the Ausies. They just played and made some score!!

      Grant - 2011-11-10 19:22

      ...and when you consider Smith's dismissal was unfortunate, Kallis just played a stupid shot, and AB pretty much hit the ball off the middle of his bat with his LBW (although it was correctly given out)...we could quite easily have put on a good total. There's def something there for the bowlers, but I think it was just one of those days where the millimeters went the bowlers' way.

  • Cracker - 2011-11-10 18:33

    It is taken that the correct word is "groundsman". Or somewhat similar.

  • Shirley - 2011-11-10 18:35

    Fully agree. Oz played some very silly cricket strokes[as did we] and their tail enders hung on playing a few decent shots. Panic set in and the rest is history. I also think that weather conditions had a role. Pitch is not to blame-just poor cricket. Smith give us a captains innings!!!

      Sarel - 2011-11-10 19:27

      Five-day cricket has changed to adapt to the faster forms of the game that have far greater public support in the modern era. Playing attacking shots on a pitch that assist swing bowling will cause problems. Very few batsmen today have shown patience that is required in the five-day version of the game. Agree - do not blame a superb pitch that is, for once, assisting the bowlers!

  • jc.smit - 2011-11-10 18:43

    They call it a batsman's game but when the bowlers have a good day, everyone has a heartattack. Was a great day of cricket, both teams bowled well and took wickets... Tomorow wil be a very interesting and good day to watch. Just glad we got the follow on...

      Grant - 2011-11-10 19:24

      I'm a bowler, and I've never thought of it as a batsman's game. I dont actually know why people keep saying that... Good bowlers win games just as often (if not more so) than good batsmen...

      Deon - 2011-11-11 09:59

      T20 and 1 day cricket are batsmen's game, usually test cricket is more even. Silly batting by Oz.

      Grant - 2011-11-11 11:22

      @Deon... T20 is not a batsman's game. Batting and bowling strike rates both increase... averages pretty much stay the same. Yes, batsmen score quicker, but then bowlers take wickets much more regularly because batsmen HAVE to bat quicker. How often do you see a 20-20 score of 210-for-1? A higher run-rate does not mean its a batsman's game.. ;)

  • aiazmir - 2011-11-10 19:20

    The problem was the "demons in the head", as Allan Border put it. Both sides suffered from it. I thought it was a brilliant wicket and pitch. If any batter applied themselves, like Michael Clark, the pitch was a "mother of runs". The truth is that neither side has produced any individual batters who can apply themselves. Both sides bowled extremely well, with the exceptions of Morne Morkel in the first innings, but he did a better job in the Second innings. I have written a book about batting, and I saw clearly that batters took the wrong approach to batting on day 2. They weren't watching the bat onto the ball. They assumed the trajectory wouldn't change, which wasn't the case. As the conditions change, so must batters adapt. If they fail to, then, they are going to be "caught out". These conditions occur at the coast, and it has as much about above surface moisturem as it does about below surface moisture. Commentators are saying that the first hour will be difficult. Watch the lunchtime conditions. Below surface water could change conditions as well.

  • Niela.vH - 2011-11-11 07:55

    Just one of those strange days in cricket. It only takes 10 balls for a team to be bowled out. The problem do not lie in the wicket, rather in batsmen who wanted to play 20/20 shots on a wicket thet seems a bit. A wicket like this one is good for real Test cricket. The batsmen must front up to the challenge...

  • Robin - 2011-11-11 08:04

    Gunner , don't be such a twat !! Robin

  • PvdLK - 2011-11-11 11:29

    A bitch of a pitch!

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